A prescription for healthy eating – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County rolls out “Farmacy” program

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – Getting the right nutrition is important for good health – but it’s not always accessible.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County, SNAP-Ed, and Lockport’s Eastern Niagara Hospital have teamed up to help- by offering a new “pilot” produce prescription program, dubbed “Farmacy”.

They’ve created a two-question hunger screening questionnaire, which is available in the waiting room of the hospital, patient rooms, and urgent care facilities, explained Justine Hays senior SNAP nutritionist for SNAP-Ed Program/CCE Niagara County.

The questions include “Do you have enough food every month?” and “do you have enough money to buy food every month?”.

“If they answer ‘often true’ or ‘sometimes true’ to those questions, they can ask any hospital staff person for help,” Hays added. “That person will give them a resource list of where they can find local food pantries, emergency food access, how they can enroll in SNAP- and they’ll also get a referral for the Farmacy program.”

Participants in the free-to-enroll Farmacy program will attend weekly nutrition education workshops at Eastern Niagara Hospital or via Zoom, and they’ll also receive $10 vouchers for produce at the CCE’s Veggie Van after each session.

The Veggie Van, which brings fresh, locally grown produce to underserved communities in Niagara County, will be parked outside of ENH after each nutrition class.

“They can use that coupon right away on the produce they just learned about in class,” Hays said. “If they learned a new recipe, they can go out and make it that day.”

The Veggie Van will be on-site at Eastern Niagara Hospital every Wednesday for the coming month, ENH president and CEO Anne McCaffrey said- making access to fresh fruits and vegetables easier for hospital staff, patients, and the community.

“We know the impact of good nutrition on all of our health and on chronic diseases and as we recover from different illnesses,” McCaffrey said. “Good nutrition – fruits and vegetables, having proper vitamins and minerals in the body is just so important, so this is just a great way for the hospital to partner with CCE for healthy eating and better nutrition.”

The idea for the Farmacy program started two years ago, Hays said.

“We started talking about it in 2019 before everything was put on hold, and [ENH] was so quick to pick it right back up this year,” Hays added. “The staff has embraced it, they’ve been so empathetic and supportive to community members, because they know when people don’t have the nutrients they need, they’re not going to be able to heal well or take care of their chronic illnesses- getting those nutrients is really the first step to be able to do that.”

The Veggie Van is on the move for the 2021 season! You can find a full list of its locations and times here.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

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