An organic partnership

By Misty Caffey

What started out as a seedling of an idea has now bloomed into a widely popular program called the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Partnerships for Health. This “prescription veggie program” has benefited not only patients but the community as well.

In 2013 during a Care Oregon Convention, a small group of innovators were brainstorming ideas on how to bring healthy food to the more vulnerable populations within the community. This group consisted of Richmond Clinic’s Brian Frank, M.D., Danielle Morgan, R.N., Rachael Postman, D.N.P., Mary Jo Adamski, PSU School of Public Health’s Betty Izumi, Ph.D., M.P.H., Zenger Farms’ Bryan Allan, and others from Multnomah County’s Southeast Health Center. 

The pilot program started out at one of the Multnomah County Health Department Clinics and by the second year, Richmond Clinic joined in the partnership. The program has now been growing strong for six years, not only benefiting patients but helping out local farmers too. It bridges the gap between low-income community members with diet-related health concerns and fresh food resources.

This year, when the pandemic hit, it didn’t stop the CSA program from continuing to deliver fresh vegetables to those in need. In fact, Richmond Community Health Worker Patrick Maloney received OHSU’s Golden ROSE Award this fall for finding a way to continue to serve patients. His nomination reads:

“When COVID hit, we knew that things would be different. Typically, the program model consisted of 50 patients coming to the clinic each week during the summer to get their produce in a farmer’s market style pick up. In light of COVID, we knew we couldn’t have a gathering in the parking lot, but furthermore, we knew we had to do our best to protect our most vulnerable patients, especially those who participate in this program and are food insecure and/or have chronic diseases. That’s when Patrick stepped in. We shifted to a delivery model for this season and Patrick got to work recruiting patients for the program. Unfortunately, the farm had a specific delivery area, which did not include downtown Portland. Many of our patients, especially those that who are low-income, food insecure and at-risk for COVID live in housing downtown. They were going to miss out on fresh, affordable and local produce simply because of where they lived. Patrick developed a plan. He arranged to drive all the way to the farm in east Portland, pick up shares in his car and deliver them to all of the patients who wanted to participate and lived throughout downtown, ensuring that they had access to this incredible program. Without Patrick, many of our most vulnerable patients would be without this resource and unable to obtain health, fresh produce. He truly embodies the spirit of going above and beyond, demonstrates exceptional patient-centered care and he certainly puts the “community health” in community health worker!”

To learn more about this program and hear to how it has made an impact on patients, visit the Zenger Farm website.