SHREWSBURY — A concert on Friday at the Community Meeting House will benefit the Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC) Farmacy Project, Rutland County’s Food as Medicine Prescription program.
Emma Hileman, Farmacy project director for the VFFC, said the project is in its seventh year.
“Members are signed up through their health care providers to receive a free CSA (community supported agriculture) share that we curate here at the Vermont Farmers Food Center. Most of our members have chronic health conditions and they need more fruits and veggies in their diet. We partner only with local farmers so this food is grown in the county. All of the money is going to the county,” she said.
Participants who have been referred by their health care provider and then approved, don’t pay for the food because the program is supported by state and federal grants as well as fundraising, Hileman said.
The event is also supported by what Hileman called a “really great meat donation” from Spring Lake Ranch, in Cuttingsville, which resulted in 200 grass-fed hamburger beef patties.
The event is billed as a “Burger Night” with music by Addison County-based trio, Va-et-vient.
Suzanne Germain, a member of Va-et-vient, said she and the other members, Carol Reed and Lausanne Allen, perform song from Quebec, France and Louisiana.
“French songs from around the world. Traditional music. … It’s really upbeat, happy music,” she said.
All the members sing, and they accompany themselves using fiddle, mandolin, guitar and flute.
Germain said Friday will be the band’s first show in Shrewsbury, but said they play regularly in Rutland County including a show in Pittsford this week.
Farmacy has been helping people for several years and continued while the area, like all of Vermont and the rest of the country, was responding to COVID-19. During the pandemic, Farmacy only added a few new members. Hileman said this was because enrollment has generally grown based on participants seeing their health care provider and being referred to the program but many people paid fewer visits to doctors and clinics.
According to Hileman, there was still about 150 members and while more restrictions were in place, a “drive-by” model of delivery was enacted so participants didn’t have to come to the VFFC building.
For 2021, the program has grown to about 200 members.
Hileman said because there are no financial barriers or stipulations to be a participant in Farmacy, they get a “variety of different folks.” About 80% of the participants in 2020 had chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity or heat conditions, she said.
Merideth Drude, manager of the community health improvement department for Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC), said access to healthy food can have a positive impact on the health of participants.
“The notion of food as medicine supports your overall health and wellness and may also support individuals who have food insecurity,” she said.
Drude added that the food shares can help not just the participants but his or her family members, and said Farmacy also helps to spread information about good nutrition and healthy eating that can have long-term benefits.
While Farmacy isn’t year-round, participants will pick up their shares every Wednesday for 12 weeks during the summer. Hileman said each share, provided by local farms, is about 10 to 12 pounds of food.
“It can help to feed a family. It’s a lot of food for one person,” she said.
There’s three fall shares, one each in October, November and December.
Throughout Rutland County, there are almost 10 distribution sites so people can pick up their shares at the VFFC site on West Street in Rutland or at the community health centers in Castleton, Brandon, Pawlet and Shoreham. Fair Haven Concerned and the Smokey House Center in Danby also help to extend the program’s pickup locations.
Heidi Lynch, the operations director for VFFC, started the local Farmacy program around the time the center was formed.
“It really became the first real program for the Vermont Farmers Food Center besides the winter farmers market,” Hileman said.
She said there are other “food as prescription” programs in Vermont and across the country now, but said she believed the one at VFFC was one of the earliest in the state.
Participants do not have to pay for their shares, but Hileman said the concert will raise money that will be invested back into the local agricultural community.
Admission to the event, which starts at 5 p.m. Friday, is $15. The Rutland-area food truck business, Rollin’ Rooster, will also participate.