Pharmacy to Farm prescriptions offer patients monthly health bucks that can be used at local farmers' markets.

By Kelly Vaughan
August 14, 2019
an assortment of fruits and vegetables on a white plate
Credit: Raymond Hom

When New York City residents go to their nearby pharmacy to pick up their medication, they may also receive an additional prescription. The Pharmacy to Farm program offers "prescriptions" to patients who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and have high blood pressure; the monthly prescription is $30 worth of health bucks that can be used at nearby farmers' markets to purchase fruits and vegetables. It was founded in 2017 by the New York City Health Department and is funded by the USDA's Farm Bill. Since launching in May 2017, Pharmacy to Farm has distributed over $80,000 in Health Bucks to more than 850 participants, according to The Huffington Post.

The initiative is crucial for low-income residents with high blood pressure—one in five New York City residents is on SNAP and one in four suffers from high blood pressure. "People who are using SNAP need more money for food," said Jeni Clapp, director of Nutrition Policy and Programs at the city Health Department. "This is good for patients, good for pharmacies and good for farmers."

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Currently, Pharmacy to Farm is offered at 16 different pharmacies in neighborhoods across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Clapp calls these pharmacies "the unsung heroes of health care. They are available and open long hours and people can walk right in. They are trusted assets for the community."

The pharmaceutical program offers food insecure residents suffering from chronic diseases the ability to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption at no additional cost. Without it, lower-income residents are faced with the daily challenge of being able to afford to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Given that an estimated 13.5 million Americans live in food deserts—otherwise known as areas where there is little to no access to healthy food options or full-service supermarkets—the potential health benefits of the program are huge.


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