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Rural Health Information Hub

Vermont Food Access in Health Care (FAHC) Consortium

Summary 
  • Need: To integrate healthcare with access to nutritious food in rural Vermont.
  • Intervention: The Bi-State Primary Care Association and three FQHCs created food programs: Medically Tailored Meals, Produce Prescriptions, and Social Grocery Store.
  • Results: These programs screen people for food insecurity, distribute food, offer health education sessions, and help people complete applications for other food programs.

Description

mother and son with vegetables on picnic table

The Vermont Food Access in Health Care (FAHC) consortium is a partnership of the Bi-State Primary Care Association and three Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs): Lamoille Health Partners (LHP), Little Rivers Health Care (LRHC), and Northern Tier Center for Health (NOTCH). Each FQHC has implemented a food program: Medically Tailored Meals, Produce Prescriptions, and the Social Grocery Store initiative.

The Bi-State Primary Care Association received a 2023-2027 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Network Development grant.

Services offered

Medically Tailored Meals Program

The Medically Tailored Meals Program prepares and distributes healthy meals to LHP patients diagnosed or considered at risk for heart disease. It partners with University of Vermont Extension, Meals on Wheels, and other food delivery services to reach patients in rural Lamoille County. LHP creates a newsletter with heart-healthy recipes and other information to be delivered with the food.

LHP also partners with a nonprofit to deliver surplus vegetables from local farms through Meals on Wheels or have this produce available for pick-up. Drop-offs occur every other week during the summer and fall and once a month during the winter. LHP also stores food in a freezer, available to patients as needed.

Registered dietitians on the LHP Community Health Team provide support and cooking equipment to patients who need it.

Food Farmacy

LRHC patients who screen positive for food insecurity and a chronic health condition are referred to the Food Farmacy. LRHC distributes Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares from a food gleaning farm. LRHC plans to purchase CSAs for 22 patients for the summer of 2024.

LRHC has also partnered with the Vermont Food Bank to create shelf-stable food boxes for patients with type 2 diabetes and/or hypertension.

Social Grocery Store and Produce Prescription Program

NOTCH's nonprofit social grocery store in rural Richford, Vermont, offers free samples of healthy food, healthy recipe cards, cooking instructions, and coupons for healthy foods.

NOTCH also has a CSA produce prescription program for eligible patients. Since May 2023, 73% of participants have picked up or received more than half of their shares at one of eight NOTCH clinics. NOTCH is looking to implement a point-of-sale system at the social grocery store so that participants can buy their produce prescriptions there.

Results

LHP: 104 patients are currently enrolled, 27 of which are using the food delivery service option. Between May 2023 and October 2023, 1,411 meals were distributed, worth about $10,824.19. During that same timeframe, 107 patient health education sessions were offered.

LRHC: As of October 2023, for all patients who had visits in the reporting period, 93% of adults were screened and 88% of children were screened for food insecurity. LRHC has 44 patients participating in meal delivery programs.

NOTCH: In 2023, 29 patients were enrolled for CSA shares, 192 unique participants were enrolled in SNAP-Ed direct nutrition services, 60 participants received food assistance, 23 people received assistance with applications for a USDA food program, and 12,064 food insecurity screenings were completed.

The Vermont Food Access in Health Care (FAHC) consortium is listed in RHIhub's Rural Health Literacy Toolkit's Program Clearinghouse.

Challenges

LRHC's Food Farmacy originally had care coordinators deliver food to participants, but this was unsustainable. The program developer worked individually with participants to arrange pick-up for their produce bags. A church has agreed to be a food distribution site.

An ongoing challenge for NOTCH is finding an affordable vendor to install a point-of-sale system at the grocery store.

Other general barriers include transportation issues and falsely low positive screening rates (people who are food-insecure but are not identified during the screening).

Replication

The Vermont FAHC consortium meets quarterly to discuss the three programs. One recent topic of discussion is sustainability when the HRSA grant ends.

Contact Information

Kristen Bigelow-Talbert, Senior Program Manager of Health Quality
Bi-State Primary Care Association
802.229.0002 Ext. 220
kbigelow@bistatepca.org

Topics
Food security and nutrition

States served
Vermont

Date added
March 19, 2024

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2024. Vermont Food Access in Health Care (FAHC) Consortium [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1135 [Accessed 25 April 2024]


Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.