Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Given money to buy shares in community-supported agriculture, people got healthier

Photo: Charles Bertram, Lexington Herald-Leader
A pilot program in Kentucky that gave employees money to spend on fresh, local produce boosted their health and local agriculture, Janet Patton reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Tim Woods, a University of Kentucky agriculture marketing professor, introduced the idea to the UK Health and Wellness program last year, backing it up with data from research he did in 2015 that found people who eat local, fresh produce are healthier.

Woods's study, published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, found that the 95 people who got shares in community supported agriculture, which provides participants with a weekly allotment of seasonally available produce, eggs and meat, reported a long list of positive lifestyle changes. Those included eating out less often, increasing their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, and a decrease in prescription costs and doctor visits.

"Most importantly, their monthly expenditure at the pharmacy dropped from an average of $33.84 to $17.23, almost a 50 percent decrease," Patton writes. Also, the average number of doctor visits during the six-month program dropped to two from almost seven and a half.

Woods's work prompted UK Health and Wellness decided to create its own voucher pilot with 200 CSA shares. Soon after, Appalachian Regional Healthcare in Hazard and Hospice of the Bluegrass joined in. “We are a self-insured plan so the cost of keeping someone off medication is certainly paying for the cost of her food box," hospice CEO Liz Fowler told Patton.

And it's good for farmers Patton reports: "This year’s program resulted in about $100,000 in new sales for local farms, Canon said."

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