Community Health Centers of Burlington: Farm Share Program

2021 Grant Amount: $5,500

We are requesting funding through City Market’s Seedling Grant in support of CHCB’s new Farm Share Program, which will be administered by our Registered Dietitian (RD). CHCB offers no-cost nutrition counseling services to our patients by connecting them with our RD.

This year we are partnering with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. and Blue Heron Farm to offer a Farm Share Program to patients identified as being at highest risk of experiencing food insecurity. Our Farm Share Program’s objective is to facilitate weekly farm share distributions to identified at-risk patients, free of charge. Our RD will collaborate with medical providers across different sites to identify and connect with these patients to enroll them in the Farm Share Program with the primary goal of increasing equitability of, and access to, nutrient-dense, fresh produce. The RD will also distribute educational materials to patients on how to prepare, cook, and enjoy the specific items distributed within each weekly farm share to encourage optimal outcomes that reduce food waste. This is a perfect example of holistic health care for our community.

Our Farm Share Program launches this summer, with the intention of becoming an ongoing, annual program. If approved, grant funds from City Market would support the 2022 Farm Share program. In addition to working with providers and patients to identify those with the most need via a survey and enrollment documentation, there will be a follow-up survey to help guide the program going forward. The general annual timeline is outlined below:

  • May – June: Patient recruitment, volunteer recruitment
  • June – July: Patient enrollment (pre-survey, enrollment documentation)
  • July – September: Weekly farm share distribution
  • September – October: Post-survey documentation

On a typical day, CHCB’s RD works together with patients to achieve health goals for issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, weight loss, and even cost-effective meal planning. They also work closely with newly-arrived immigrants and refugees to help navigate the local food system and coach them on how to cook with items they may not have had access to in the past. The RD incorporates different educational materials and visual aids such as props and videos to empower patients to take charge of their health through responsible dietary choices. These services are available at all CHCB sites, and include:

  • Individualized medical nutrition therapy for specific chronic disease (such as Diabetes or Hypertension)
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Diet modification
  • Meal planning on a budget
  • Referral to healthy food resources

Since the onset of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, food insecurity has increased drastically. Even in Vermont, where our pandemic response has been swift and effective, it has not been uncommon to witness miles-long lines of cars idling outside of local food distribution events. According to a study conducted by the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Environment, nearly 30% of Vermonters have experienced food insecurity – nearly triple 2018 levels – since March, 2020. One in four study participants also indicated significantly less consumption of fruits and vegetables, suggesting a decrease in diet quality as well. We have budgeted for fifty shares for this season, meaning a minimum of fifty of our most vulnerable patients will benefit; however, this number is likely much higher when calculating in family members. We anticipate these numbers will be consistent or even higher in the future.