“Follow the Food” highlights the journey that produce takes from the auction floor to homes, restaurants, healthcare providers, colleges, and hungry mouths across the region.
The produce sold at the Chesterhill Produce Auction has many different destinations. One initiative Rural Action has found success in is Produce Prescriptions. We partner with healthcare institutions to provide produce to patients with the goal of managing chronic health conditions. Coplin Health Systems and Hopewell Health Centers coordinate their Produce Prescription programs by identifying patients to participate. Rural Action purchases produce from the Chesterhill Produce Auction to then distribute to various pickup locations. You can read more about this program here.
The journey of the produce from auction to patient starts with the farmers who drop off their produce to be sold at the CPA. Prescribing local produce means patients get a wide variety of in-season fruits and vegetables throughout the auction season. The bags for the first week of Produce Prescriptions included blueberries, potatoes, peas, lettuce, and zucchini.
Next, the produce gets sorted and bagged with the help of the Sustainable Agriculture team. Once the bags are packed with produce, they get loaded into our refrigerated van to keep the produce fresh for delivery the next morning.
The last step of the journey for the produce from auction to patient is the drop off. Brady and I drove to two stops in West Virginia to drop off bags, one in Elizabeth and the other in Parkersburg. In total, we deliver weekly produce prescriptions to 8 locations across 5 counties.
Once the produce is dropped off, healthcare staff distribute bags to patients. Before we left our second drop off location Brady and I got to see the process of a patient receiving their bag. While I mostly help out behind the scenes of distribution it was cool to see the other end of the journey where produce is put into the hands of patients.
Natalie Ruth is a summer VISTA with Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture program. She is from Columbus and will be a senior at Ohio State studying Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability.