A Partnership for Health

As the soil at Food Works farm is getting tilled, as the cover crop is being planted, and while the van is continually getting stuck in the mud due to the fall rains, we at Food Works are reflecting back on the successes, learning moments, and beauty that defined this past season on the farm. We had two successful farmers market booths, an account at the University Park New Seasons, and the biggest, longest CSA we’ve ever had.

An exciting addition to our CSA this year was our participation in CSA Partnerships for Health, a CSA prescription program that provides affordable vegetables and fruit to folks in the community. For those that don't know, CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture," which means a farm takes a certain number of members for the whole season and provides them with a full box of produce each week at a fixed price. We are at the beginning of a multi-year partnership that includes Zenger Farm, Adelante Mujeres, OFB Community Farm, Portland Fruit Tree Project, Rose CDC, OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond, Multnomah County Health Centers and Portland State University. For this particular program, Food Works provided organic vegetables to 11 CSA members who are patients at North Portland Health Center and whose wellness plan include healthy eating and cooking with fresh whole foods. This is easier said than done when your food budget is limited, so the partnership covered the marjority of the cost of each share and SNAP benefits covered the remaining, making locally grown, organic, fresh produce truly accesible.

Each week we would bring that week’s produce to the clinic and set it up farmers market style with the colorful produce billowing out of baskets for each person to pick from. This gave them an opportunity to have agency in their food choices and to ask and learn about each thing. It was so inspiring to see folks mystified and unsure about something like celeriac one week, then come back the next with their mouthwatering descriptions of the amazing soup they had made with it. We also partnered with Village Gardens’ Community Kitchen program so that almost each week there was a cooking demo with samples for an easy, nutritious recipe that uses the produce in that week’s  CSA share along with a recipe written out for folks to take. This created a weekly community gathering time where the patients, healthcare providers, and staff and youth from Village Gardens all had a chance to hang out outside, eat together, and connect about recipes, preferences, and experiences. We had a chance to ask the members about this experience and this is what they shared “[My favorite thing about the CSA was] learning about vegetables that I’ve never seen before. My favorite was the fresh big green beans. They’re so different from the grocery store. I really learned the difference between fresh and store bought vegetables- it’s astronomical.” Another listed the health benefits he’s experienced this past season, “[The positive effects of the CSA were] that I’m off my diabetes meds, my hemoglobin levels are where we want them. My mental health is better with the pre and probiotics I’m getting from the vegetables and supplements and I’m having less anxiety and depression. I’m more physically active and have higher energy levels!”

A big thanks to the generous funders of this revolutionary program; USDA-NIFA Community Food Project, Kaiser Permanente HEAL, Knight Cancer Institute, and Oregon Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. And to Bob’s Red Mill for donating a dry bulk item to each weekly share. Food Works is already doing farm planning to do this again next year, we look forward to it.