Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
Southside Farmer's Market & Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program
These programs improve Southside Tallahassee residents’ access to local, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, offer vouchers to purchase produce and teach residents how to prepare the foods.
The Southside Farmer’s Market and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program improves Southside Tallahassee residents’ access to local, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables while addressing social determinants of health and clinical care needs. Established in May 2018, these programs are a partnership of the City of Tallahassee, Florida A & M University, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) and other community-based organizations.
Approximately 88-99 percent of Southside Tallahassee residents are black, and vast health and social disparities exist between black and white populations in Leon County. Over time, numerous grocery stores have closed in this area, decreasing access to nutritious foods. The 2016 Leon County Minority Health Profile shows the Black/White ratio for adult diabetes diagnosis to be 1.5:1, emergency room visits due to diabetes 2.7:1, hospitalization rate 2.3:1 and age-adjusted death rate 3.1:1. In addition, this profile also shows a 2:1 ratio for poverty. Such extreme disparities create insurmountable barriers to transportation, health insurance and access to health care services, as well as lifestyle behaviors that contribute to better health outcomes.
Gwendolyn Tompkins, a member of the first Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Rx cohort, now regularly attends the monthly support group, which is building a healthy culture in local neighborhoods. Since starting the program in summer 2018, Ms. Tompkins reports she has lost 34 pounds and feels great. She learned from Dr. Cynthia, the class instructor, that she does not have to give anything up. She eats all her favorite foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, but just less of them.
The Market occurs twice per month on Thursday evenings at the Walker Ford Community Center. The Market’s goal is to provide access to nutritious foods in a health-focused environment and to build community. Each Market features entertainment, health screenings, cooking demonstrations and exhibitors offering education and resources.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program provides educational and skill-building experience for participants to better manage behaviors affecting nutrition and health. Class participants learn how to select and prepare local produce in a delicious and cost-effective way. All classes are interactive with discussion, preparation, cooking and eating. The program also makes healthy food more accessible to lower income families by providing vouchers to obtain fresh, local fruits and vegetables from the Market. Educational classes occur twice per month on alternate Thursday evenings.
TMH has dedicated both human and financial resources to these initiatives. The TMH Director of Health Promotion is integrally involved in the planning and execution of both the Market and Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program. TMH provides tents, tables and chairs for the Market and offers health screenings and cooking demonstrations. TMH also provides all class participants with a $20 voucher to purchase produce at each Market and supports all class costs.
- 100 percent of participants reported the classes and Market helped them live a healthier lifestyle
- 100 percent of participants reported the vouchers helped them to increase fruit and vegetable consumption
- 67 percent reported eating a healthier diet by the end of the program
- 43 percent rated their overall health improved
- 58 percent of participants who said they did not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables did so after the program