Choptank Community Health System is providing produce prescriptions to Mid-Shore students through community partnerships with the Avalon Foundation and Caroline County Public Schools Shore Gourmet “Sho Go” Mobile Market. Funding for the project comes from a $25K grant through the School-Based Health Center (SBHC) Food Access Learning Network and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.
The program provides local children with four, $5 vouchers for the child and family to obtain fresh produce from the Easton Farmers Market and Shore Gourmet’s “Sho Go” Mobile Market locations in Caroline and Talbot counties. The vouchers are being provided over the summer to students enrolled in Choptank Health’s School-Based Health Centers in both counties.
“Participating students are also receiving health education on topics including the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity,” explains Choptank Health Director of Community Based Programs Chrissy Bartz PA-C, MMS. “By integrating food access and preventative care, we’re able to help address childhood hunger and improve healthy dietary outcomes.”
Bartz and her School-Based Health Center team planned the logistics of the program.
“This program is allowing families to select and prepare local produce together and continue our conversations around healthy diet with everyone in the home,” says Bartz. “This outreach with the farmers and mobile markets is also a great way to meet the needs of local children facing food insecurities.”
Feeding America reports that 1,430 or 18.2% of children in Caroline County and 980 or 14.3% of Talbot County’s children are facing food insecurity. Feeding America is the United States’ largest hunger-relief organization that conducts an annual study to learn more about hunger at local levels.
“This is a great example of how collaboration with other organizations can help our community,” says Choptank Health CEO Sara Rich. “These partnerships enhance the meaningful work our teams do each day while providing essential resources that strengthen our communities.”
“We’re fortunate to build on a partnership that began with Choptank Community Health at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Avalon Foundation CEO Al Bond. “Transitioning from our outreach efforts to working together to help make sure no child goes hungry is very meaningful work.”
“This program is a great way to put fresh produce in the hands of children and families facing food insecurities,” says Caroline County Public Schools Supervisor of Food Services Beth Brewster. “This program is even more important over the summer months, and the mobile market makes it even more accessible to those in Caroline County.”
By providing access to fresh produce, organizers are offering healthier choices to students in need with the hope that they become less food insecure and healthier overall. The program engages both the student as well as family members and guardians. Choptank Health providers will follow up with students to assess the campaign’s popularity and gauge the level of behavior changes, as a direct result of the program.
Food insecure children need this additional support now more than ever. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, No Kid Hungry estimates that one out of every six kids could face hunger this year. This organization is working to end childhood hunger by helping launch and improve programs that give all kids the healthy food they need to thrive. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of Share Our Strength, a D.C.-based organization committed to ending hunger and poverty around the world.
Information on the Easton Farmer’s Market can be found at www.avalonfoundation.org/eastonfarmersmarket, with the schedule and information for the Sho Go Mobile Market at www.carolineculinaryarts.org/shogomobile.
Choptank Community Health System provides medical and dental services in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties, with a mission to provide access to comprehensive and integrated health care for all. Medical services include primary health care, women’s health, pediatrics, behavioral health, chronic health management, and care navigation. Choptank Health also operates 32 School-Based Health Centers in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, and Talbot counties, providing medical and dental services for enrolled K-12 students, with more at www.choptankhealth.org.