Farm Share Rx program aims to heal people through better diets

08.14.2018 Danielle Frost People, Health & Wellness, Tribal Employees

Food as medicine

Farm Share Rx program aims

to heal people through better diets

By Danielle Frost

In traditional Tribal culture, food is more than nourishment: It is medicine and can help prevent a plethora of ailments.

However, with the nearest grocery store to Grand Ronde more than 10 miles away, regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables that can help people heal themselves is difficult.

Enter Food Share Rx, a pilot program at the Grand Ronde Food Bank -- iskam mfkHmfk haws -- that matches Health & Wellness Center clients with weekly fresh fruits and vegetables in an effort to begin healing through healthy eating.

Clients are referred by the Health & Wellness Center and receive a free, weekly distribution of seasonal produce from Osprey Farm in Willamina for 14 weeks between June and September.

“Fresh fruit and vegetables are a huge benefit out here,” Food Bank Coordinator Francene Ambrose says. “Meat is our number one request at the Food Bank, followed by fresh fruit and vegetables. The local corner stores don’t usually offer those and if they do, it is at a high cost. We don’t have a farmer’s market yet, so this is the cornerstone to building clientele who will use it.”

Additionally, Oregon State University Extension Service’s Food Hero program offers on-site weekly recipe ideas and tastings that feature vegetables in the distribution, as well as a series of cooking classes.

Ethel Taylor, a Shawnee Tribal member, learned about the program through her diabetes education classes at the Health & Wellness Center.

“I really like having fresh vegetables every Wednesday and the cooking classes are super helpful, too,” Taylor says. “I also like the recipe suggestions because it gives me new ways to prepare things. … It has really made my husband and I think about what we are eating. It is really good for the community to have out here because it is hard to get to a grocery store.”

On a recent Wednesday, the produce distribution included summer squash, Chioggia beets, sweet corn, red onions, green cabbage, basil, broccoli and cucumbers. Also included were informational fliers on the produce and recipe suggestions.

Community member Susan Mills began accessing the program so she could help her elderly mother eat healthier. However, she and her grandchildren also have benefitted.

“I really enjoy the variety of vegetables,” she says. “And I have a file of new recipes. … I give my grandkids smoothies and tell them it is just like what they have at Dairy Queen, and they like it.”

The result of this healthier lifestyle has been a significant drop on the scale.

“I have lost 97 pounds in the last year,” Mills says. “I love to try new recipes. Coming here every week is the best part of summer.”

Farm Share Rx Coordinator Rachel Peterson says the biggest benefit she has seen from the program is changing attitudes among clients about trying new produce.

“They are excited to have new vegetables every week and increase the health of their diets,” she says. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback.”

The program was introduced in Grand Ronde after a series of community conversations, recalls Marion-Polk Food Share Director of Community Programs Lexi Stickel.

“The outcome was that people wanted more access to fresh fruit and vegetables,” she says. “We were trying to come up with ways to bring this to Grand Ronde and so we were able to partner with a local farm. It is awesome to see the community connect to it.”

The program is currently full, but Health & Wellness will begin recruiting new participants in the spring. Forty people participated this year and the goal is to increase participation to 50 in 2019, which is very attainable given that the program currently has a waiting list.

Those who are not referred by a health care provider also have the option of paying for the program and picking up their vegetables in Grand Ronde on regular Wednesday distribution days.

“I like seeing people’s facial expressions when they try new vegetables and like them,” Stickel says. “We are helping folks experience new fruits and vegetables, and providing access to fresh items.”

Ambrose added that the program is helping people conquer their fear of using raw fruits and vegetables in cooking. She has seen clients go from being unsure to enthusiastically eating produce out of the bag.

“These vegetables come straight from the farm and they are not in a colorful display at a store,” she says. “These were in the ground just a few hours ago and are the freshest way we can give them to someone.”

For more information about Farm Share Rx in Grand Ronde, contact Ambrose at 503-879-3663 or at Information on Osprey Farm can be found at