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Farmers Markets…At the Hospital?

February 16, 2012

Leeks instead of Lipitor? Kale instead of Coumadin? We’re not quite there yet, but the Harris County Hospital District of Houston, Texas makes us think that we might not be far off. It—along with a handful of other health organizations—has installed active farmers markets on the premises in an effort to bring affordable fresh produce directly to patients.

HCHD is one of the newest hospitals to join the growing “vegetable prescription” movement in which medical institutions are promoting proper nutrition as a core component of building good health. Thanks to Healthy Harvest, HCHD’s farmers market initiative, patients can simply stroll down the hall and buy fresh fruits and vegetables, helping them to support their health by improving their diets.

Grabbing some leafy greens or sweet potatoes might sound simple enough, but it’s not always the case. Many HCHD patients live in underserved communities and food deserts where they don’t have ready access to inexpensive, unprocessed foods or nutrition education. Organizations like Healthy Harvest fill the fresh-food void with great success; so far, in the first three months, HCHD farmers markets have sold over five tons of fruits and vegetables.

This walk-the-talk mindset is a significant turnaround from more paradoxical trends like fast food restaurants in hospitals. Instead, farmers markets have found homes at medical institutions around the country, such as New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, San Francisco’s UCSF Medical Center, Nashville’s Vanderbilt Medical Center, and Kaiser Permanente locations from Baltimore to Honolulu.

Between these farmers markets and government efforts like the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, it seems that the connection between food and wellness is truly gaining traction and making an impact.

Where would you like to see famers markets?