Combining Services to Increase Access to Local Produce

Summer Vegetation for Everyone

Summer is a wonderful time to buy fresh produce- everything seems to be in abundance! The juicy tomatoes are making their mark on every sandwich and salad, the summer squash add their bright color and flavor to any dinner dish, and the bountiful fresh herbs can be thrown into every single meal to add a flavor profile that is complex in taste but easy in practice. What an opportune time to fill up on the local Virginia produce!

But, what about those that cannot always afford to purchase fresh produce or shop at local farmer’s markets?

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is supported by the VA Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services-Division of Aging, the VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the USDA. The FMNP provides checks to Seniors and WIC families for the purchase of local produce at Farmers Markets. The Augusta-Staunton Health Department, one of seven serving the Central Shenandoah Health District, began issuing Farmer’s Market checks 2 years ago to their WIC participants hoping to enable them to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables. This Health District is in fact the largest in Virginia, in terms of square mileage, and is filled with rural areas.

Another Challenge – Access

For some living in rural areas, access to food assistance programs is a major challenge. Through a survey the Augusta-Staunton Health Department conducted with their WIC clients, they came to understand that while their clients were enthusiastic about the possibility of receiving local produce, many did not have the time nor means of transportation to travel to their nearest Farmers Markets during their operational days.

Increasing Access – The Farmer’s Market Initiative

To address this issue and increase access to produce, the Augusta-Staunton Health Department WIC Program decided to bring the farmers market directly to the WIC location. The goal is to bring the local farmers to the Health Department on a day when WIC clients will already be coming to the Health Department for other WIC services, thereby reducing the difficulty of transportation issues.

Along with several partners:

  • Project GROWS, a non-profit farm located in Verona
  • Troyer’s Produce located in Waynesboro
  • JMD Farms located in Staunton

Project GROWS, who acts as the Fiscal Manager, was chosen for this joint venture

  • both Project GROWS and the WIC Program have common goals of improving the health of young children through access to nutritious foods
  • because of their experience is successfully running two other Farmers Markets in Augusta County.

 

The WIC participants are able to come in for their appointments, check-ups and nutrition education programs, receive their Farmers Market Vouchers, and then proceed to spend their Farmers Market checks to purchase fresh produce from the farmers right there on the Health Department property!

Since the start of the Health Department Farmers Market Initiative on July 8th, the return rate of the Farmers Market checks has increased dramatically. This successful initiative means that

  • WIC participants are able to have easier access to fresh produce that promote their good health
  • local farmers are finding a new way to increase their selling capacity, which ultimately enhances the local economy.

You can find pictures from their Farmer’s Market on Facebook at the Central Shenandoah Health District and you can contact the Staunton Health Department at (540) 332-7830 to find out more information on who is able to receive these Farmers Market checks as well as ways you can help enhance their initiative.

You can also contact Project GROWS at http://www.projectgrows.org if you are looking to volunteer your time on the farm harvesting and tending to their beds!

It always feels good doing something to help out your community and volunteering with a local farm can provide a whole new appreciation for the fresh local food we are able to enjoy here in Virginia!

Jenna Clark from Project GROWS

Photo 1: Jenna Clark, from Project GROWS, sets up for the first Health Department Farmers Market. Credit to the Facebook page of Central Shenandoah Health District.

 

Trayers Produce and Project GROWS

Photo 2: Troyer’s Produce and Project GROWS attract some happy clients during the Farmers Market. Credit to the Facebook page of Central Shenandoah Health District.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kat Huntley

Kat Huntley is a senior at James Madison University, where she majors in Dietetics and serves as the Vice President of the Dietetics Association. She enjoys being an engaged community member and looks to stay active in her volunteer work geared towards improving the equity of healthy food access. She has a passion for advocating for the health of the vulnerable and believes that food is a fundamental part of life that has the power to bring people together! Contact: huntleks@dukes.jmu.edu

CARBS, CAFFEINE, & CRABBINESS

Have you ever heard the old adage: “You are what you eat”? Well here is another one for you, “What you eat is what you feel”! What we choose to eat and drink can affect how we feel, both physically and emotionally. A very real connection exists between nutrition and our emotional health. This should be encouraging news, because it lets us know that eating food that is good for us can also make us feel good!

Indulging, at times, in sweet and fatty foods can certainly be a part of living a wholesome life, but if we don’t make sure to balance the sweet stuff with other foods, then those foods choices can really start to have a negative effect on our bodies-both physically and emotionally.

A great example is the way that Morgan Spurlock responded to his 30-day McDonald’s challenge in the film Super Size Me. Not only did his physical health suffer, but he became fatigued and depressed.  While not all Americans eat fast food for every meal every day, this serves as a learning moment for us all. A month of extreme eating took a happy and healthy person to the point where he was just a shadow of himself emotionally.

Balance is the key here, and I want to share with you some of the areas that are most often found out of balance in our diets.

Carbohydrates with FiberBerries

Carbohydrates provide us with energy and are found in a wide variety of food. Fruits, grains, and starchy vegetables are some of the best sources of since they are also naturally high in fiber. Fiber has a lot of functions and one of them is to slow the absorption of simple carbohydrates (e.g. starch and sugar).

The slower absorption rate prevents blood sugar highs and lows. These highs and lows aren’t just referring to your blood sugar levels.  This spiking of our blood sugar mirrors the way that we can feel after eating and digesting a bunch of refined sugar and starch- we feel high and then we feel low (Sommerfield, et al., 2004).

Caffeine Kick

While caffeine can be enjoyed in a balanced way, it is good to think about it for what it is- it is a type of drug that is classified as a stimulant, and stimulants have the power to alter our moods. The adverse effects of too much caffeine can include things like jitteriness, anxiousness, an irritated stomach, and sleeplessness or poor quality of sleep (Persad, 2011).  Withdrawal from caffeine can lead to feelings of irritability and depression accompanied with headaches and even constipation (Juliano, et al., 2004).

Balancing caffeinated with non-caffeinated beverages is the key. On average, a person can have up to 400 mg of caffeine and consider themselves to be in balance, a little less than that if the person is sensitive to caffeine. To give an idea of what that translates into:

coffee-171653_1280

  • a 12 oz. caffeinated soda will typically have anywhere from 30-50 mg
  • a 6 oz. coffee typically contains 100 mg,
  • a 16 oz. a Starbucks coffee drip coffee contains about 400 mg of caffeine

 

Slowly weaning off caffeine will make the dietary transition easier and will help to avoid the worst of the withdrawal symptoms.

  1. If you have 4-5 cups of coffee a day, try cutting back to 3 cups and having one cup of decaf.
  2. Stay with that for a few days.
  3. Then step back down another step and try only having 2 cups of regular.

Once you have made your changes into a habit, you will feel better emotionally and physically and you will be happy to find yourself actually feeling more in balance than you were before.

Balance can be best described as boundary management. It is about making choices and enjoying them. It is not always something that we find, but instead is something that we can create. By keeping in mind the areas of life that are easy to let get out of balance, we can better maintain our ability to correct those areas, bringing us a sense of accomplishment, happiness and overall well-being!

 

References:

  1. Sommerfield AJ, Deary IJ, Frier BM. (2004). Acute hyperglycemia alters mood state and impairs cognitive performance in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 10, 2335-2340. doi: 10.2337/diacare.27.10.2335
  2. Persad LA. (2011) Energy drinks and the neurophysiological impact of caffeine. Neurosci. 5, 116. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00116
  3. Juliano LM, Griffiths RR. (2004). A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology, 176, 1-29. doi: 10.1007/s00213-004-2000-x

 

Kat Huntley 2