Pharmacy to Farm

Pharmacy to Farm
August 31, 2019 Christina Mullin

New York City Is Giving Out Prescriptions For Free Fruits And Vegetables.

Pharmacy to Farm started as a New York City Health Department pilot program in the spring of 2017, funded by the USDA’s Farm Bill. When patients pick up their blood pressure medication at participating pharmacies, they’re handed a “prescription” for $30 in coupons, redeemable for fruits and vegetables at any of the city’s 142 farmers markets.

The Union Square Greenmarket is one of 142 farmers markets citywide, all of which accept Health Bucks. Three nearby pharmacies participate in the Pharmacy to Farm program to dispense fruit and vegetable prescriptions to New Yorkers with high blood pressure.

 Since launching Pharmacy to Farm has distributed over $80,000 in Health Bucks to more than 850 participants.

About every other patient who walks up to Abid Nadeem’s counter at Dyckman Pharmacy in the Inwood section of Manhattan is picking up prescription medication to treat high blood pressure- losartan, telmisartan, beta blockers like metoprotolol, bepridil and other calcium channel blockers. But Nadeem’s favorite prescription to hand out to these patients is the one they can use to get $30 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables at the nearby Inwood Greenmarket, for free.

In May, Nadeem, the supervising pharmacist at Dyckman, was selected to join New York City’s Pharmacy to Farm program, which provides extra money each month for fresh produce to people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and are on medication for hypertension. One in five New Yorkers is on SNAP; one in four has high blood pressure. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure and reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.

Nadeem was so enthusiastic about introducing the program to the residents of the neighborhood he’s served for 25 years that he spent his own money to design, print and mail 4,000 promotional flyers. Just a few days after dropping off the last batch at the post office, he was already seeing new faces coming in to sign up.

“I’m excited to join and tell my patients how important this program is,” Nadeem told HuffPost. “They are understanding what it all means, how the city is spending money on them, for their health. They are eager to get vouchers.”

He’s already enrolled 80 patients and is expecting many more now that all the flyers have gone out.

 What started out as a very small pilot in just a few pharmacies has been so popular with patients, pharmacists and farmers markets that it’s rapidly expanded, first to 10 pharmacies, then to 16, many in low-income neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, explained Jeni Clapp, director of nutrition policy and programs at the NYC Health Department.

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