Harvest for health

I got really excited when I read this research study a couple of weeks ago.  I think it sounds such a lovely idea.

Its a new type of therapy for cancer patients - vegetable gardening.  In the study at the university of Alabama, breast cancer patients were paired with a master gardener. They then worked together to plant a small garden in the patient's yard or in a Earthbox - a gardening container on wheels that can be kept on a porch or patio or just by the front door. The garden was planted with vegetable seedlings.  The idea behind the study was that the gardening project would encourage increased activity to plant and maintain the garden, and  then increase their vegetable intake by eating the fruits (or veggies!) of their labor.  I also think it would be good to increase the patient's self efficacy from having managed to try something new.

I'd love to see us at Ceres be able to expand to incorporate this.  At Ceres, our clients (mostly cancer patients) can have free food for 12 weeks and then another 12 weeks for a donation. It would be perfect to set them up with a garden at the 12 week time point and encourage them to grow their own organic vegetables so that when their food delivery ends, they will have learned how to cook and prepare their own vegetables.

There are horticultural therapy programs around the US and UK.  And if you've grown your own fruit and vegetables before you know what a labor of love it is - and more importantly - how exciting it is to eat your own home grown produce within minutes of harvesting it.

Anyhow - back to the study…. it was a year long feasibility study in 12 adult and child cancer survivors. The gardening intervention was well received and 90% of the subjects saw improvements in measures of strength, agility and endurance.  In addition, fruit and vegetables servings consumed each day increased in 40% and increases  of >30 minutes/week of physical activity were observed in 60% of the subjects. 

I'd love to see it also studied in groups - where neighbors work together and so you get that community spirit on top of it all.  Or at Ceres, our clients could work together with the teenagers in our garden…..

What do you think? Do you find vegetable gardening therapeutic?  How excited are you to eat your own produce?


Prescriptions for Fruits and Vegetables

A few weeks ago, New York City Deputy Major Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced a Fruit and Vegetable prescription program.  This allows doctors in and around New York City to prescribe fruit and vegetables to at-risk families.

More than 140 New York City farmers' markets are now accepting "health bucks" which have been prescribed to obese and overweight patients and their families.  The program provides patients $1 in health bucks for each day for each member of their family over a period of four months.  So for a family of four, they would get $120 in fruits and vegetables a month.

Each month patients check in with the doctor/hospital to have their prescriptions renewed and their weight and body mass index evaluated.  They also receive nutritional counseling.

The prescription program was started by Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit that connects low-income people with local, farm fresh foods.  The program started at test sites in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Rhode Island.  It has now expanded to seven states.

Let's hope doctors use this program to its fullest and it spreads across all states. Money to buy healthy fruits and vegetables and also education on why it is important and how to cook with it.  Sounds great.