Choptank Community Health System is teaming up with local produce stands and farmers markets to help ensure no child goes hungry in Talbot County and elsewhere on the Mid-Shore.

In June, Choptank Health will launch a new program that addresses childhood hunger by providing fresh produce to students in need, with the hope of ultimately improving dietary health outcomes.

Funding from a $25,000 grant will provide children with “produce prescriptions” to the Easton Farmers Market and the Harris Farms Produce Wagon at the Easton Bowling Center. Each $5 voucher, for a total of $20, allows the child and family to obtain fresh produce. Additional literature provides suggestions on how to cook the food and why it’s smart to eat well.

Awarded the grant through the School-Based Health Center (SBHC) Food Access Learning Network and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, Choptank Health is eager to begin their outreach

“Students will receive 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, the grant program addresses childhood hunger and improves dietary health outcomes.”

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. Employees at school-based health centers 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.

“This is a great example of how collaboration with other organizations can help our community,” says Choptank Health CEO Sara Rich. “We’re excited to bring locally sourced produce to more Mid-Shore families.”

Leaders of other community organizations have been eager to help. The Avalon Foundation’s Farmers Market in Easton will partner with Choptank on this effort.

“The Avalon Foundation and Choptank Community Health continue to partner in meaningful and creative ways,” says Avalon Foundation CEO Al Bond. “We’ve transitioned from our COVID-19 outreach efforts and are now leveraging our farmers market program to help make sure no child goes hungry. I can’t think of more meaningful work.”

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.

Bartz and her School-Based Health Center team planned the logistics of the program. “The health and nutrition education provided by our providers in the SBHCs, coupled with the distribution of the produce prescriptions, will allow an opportunity for families to select and prepare local produce together, and continue our conversations around healthy diet with everyone in the home,” she says. “This outreach with farmers markets and produce stands will be a great way to meet the needs of children facing food insecurities.”

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. It also operates 32 School-Based Health Centers in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, and Talbot counties, providing medical and dental services for enrolled K-12 students.

Choptank Health continues to look for opportunities to work with new partners by attending area events to get the word out in the community. Anyone interested in learning more about Choptank Health’s mobile unit and the produce prescriptions may call 410-479-5772.

“This is a great example of how collaboration with other organizations can help our community. We’re excited to bring locally sourced produce to more Mid-Shore families.”

~ Sara Rich, Choptank Health CEO