Health Department's farm share program changes patients' eating habits - and lives

October 27, 2016

Angela Reed, right, samples veggies from Zenger Farms at the CSA Partnership Celebration.

Angela Reed gained 70 pounds during her first pregnancy. The extra weight worried her.  

“I watched my dad - he passed away last year - and I kept thinking, “I don’t want to die and leave my kids,’’ she said.

Still, she didn’t expect a farm stand at the Mid County Health Center to lead to a 50-pound weight loss and major improvements in her health.

Reed was checking in for a medical appointment at the health center last year when a staff member asked if she wanted to sign up for a farm share program.  The CSA Partnership for Health was a pilot program to provide fresh organic produce to patients and their families in collaboration with several local farms. Instead of the $100 to $150 CSA cost, the families could get the full share for just $20.

Every week, Zenger Farms staff popped up a full farm stand at Mid-County. They hosted cooking classes and a  harvest dinner.  Angela, who delivered her fourth child after a very healthy pregnancy, thrived as a regular participant.

“I feel better than I have in the last 10 years. The kids actually eat a LOT of vegetables. I tried heirloom tomatoes for the first time, and I am totally in love.’’

Sign at the CSA Celebration at Mid-County Health Center
Sign at the CSA Celebration at Mid-County Health Center
Celebrating innovative steps to improve health

Angela and her children told their story at the CSA celebration at Mid County earlier this fall. The program was launched by the Patient Self Management Collaborative, a group of Health Department employees who design independent health projects across the county to address the social determinates of health.

Those workers include Jeff Holland, a community health specialist at Rockwood, Olga Samriddhi, a medical assistant at Southeast, Katy Pranian, community health worker coordinator, Elizabeth Barth, Healthy Communities coordinator, Susan Palmer and Sylvia Ness, who are community health worker supervisors.

Last year, the program was launched with 25 families and Zenger Farms, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University, the Knight Cancer Institute Community Partnership Program at Oregon Health & Science University, and with funding from the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

This year, the pilot was expanded to 35 families, and to link Northeast and Southeast Health Clinics,  the OHSU Richmond Clinic, Rose CDC, Portland Fruit Tree Project and several other farms, including Big Yellow Farmhouse, Oregon Food Bank and Village Gardens/Food Works.

Austin Reed, 15, calls his brother the champion pepper eater.
Austin Reed, 15, calls his brother the champion pepper eater.

At the September celebration, Chair Deborah Kafoury cheered their efforts linking it to the age-old healing power of healthy food.

Food is medicine,’’ she said. “Food helps us heal, helps us recover, and helps prevent us from getting sick in the first place,’’ said Chair Kafoury. "But as a parent, I also know how hard it is to get your family to eat healthy food.

Kafoury said she is so proud of the community health workers, farm workers and clinic staff who have worked to help deliver delicious medicine to our community.

Vanetta Abdellatif, director of county clinics, thanked staff for their efforts.
Vanetta Abdellatif, director of county clinics, thanked staff for their efforts.

Vanetta Abdellatif, director of Integrated Clinical Services, said it was one of several efforts community health workers have launched, including Zumba, yoga and Tai Chi classes, and  walking, mindfulness and meditation groups.

Sylvia and Carl Brown of Portland joined the celebration, grateful for the picked-that-day selection of vegetables and the sense of community. The Portland couple said they have not only been eating better thanks to the farm share, they’re actively looking for more healthy choices at the grocery store.

Sylvia’s also been trying new recipe for dishes such as the Indian-lentil dish dal -- which she loved -- and sauteed kale.

“I still don’t like kale, but at least I tried it,’’ she said.