HANCOCK COUNTY — They arranged bright yellow squash and deep green zucchini on folding tables, lining them up just so, a short distance from a large farm truck.
The truck, adorned with an orange sign announcing the arrival of the “Healthy Harvest,” carried cabbage, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and more — all grown on Indiana soil — to four sites throughout Hancock County that Thursday. The new mobile farmers market brings fruits and vegetables to locations where residents don’t have easy access to fresh food — and for those with a doctor’s note, it’s just a dollar.
Brandywine Creek Farms, a nonprofit farm located on Greenfield’s east side, has partnered with Hancock Health to visit various parts of the county to provide nutritional support to patients of the hospital — and anyone else who might be in need — officials said. The mobile farmers market, parking outside churches, libraries and doctors offices on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the summer harvest season, provides an opportunity for people to get fresh vegetables in areas without grocery stores, and offers a closer option for people with mobility issues, said hospital CEO Steve Long.
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Brandywine Creek Farms leaders long had envisioned putting their mission on wheels; when they began looking for sponsors, hospital officials broached the idea of incorporating nutrition more directly into patient care.
Physicians give patients they identify as having a need for fresh produce a “prescription,” which they present along with $1 at the sites where the Healthy Harvest truck rolls up, and they receive a week’s worth of local produce — about 12 to 14 pounds. They also receive recipe cards with ideas for how to cook their bounty, Long said.
“It’s a fantastic way to help folks, nutritionally,” he said. “It’s important for our patients to have access to fresh food, because what you eat has more impact on your health than just about anything.”
Stops will rotate, and the route list will be updated regularly at behealthy365.org.
The partnership developed quickly, with Jonathan Lawler, owner of Brandywine Creek Farms, contacting Hancock Regional Hospital officials to see if they’d provide financial support for the produce truck’s stops around the county, said Amanda Everidge, hospital healthy community manager.
Supporting efforts to provide affordable nutrition aligns with the hospital’s preventive care efforts, Everidge said.
The voucher program is a great way to get healthy options to people who need them, and doctors know their patients’ challenges, Lawler said.
Vouchers have been distributed to doctors at the Jane Pauley Community Health Center in Greenfield, officials at the Hancock County WIC Clinic and church liaisons with the hospital’s 13-church congregational network, Everidge said.
The Brandywine Creek Farms produce truck is one way to provide access to affordable produce for people in “food deserts,” or places without a grocery store selling fresh produce within 10 miles, Long said.
Even without the voucher from a physician, the produce offered from Brandywine Creek Farms is more affordable than grocery store prices, officials said. Lawler looks up the average price for produce in the county and offers his products for about half that price, he said.
And those operating the cash register now have the ability to take EBT, or electronic benefit transfer cards, Everidge said.
Earlier this month, Kathleen Whitehead of Greenfield caught wind of the mobile farmers markets from a Facebook post and decided to come out to St. Michael Catholic Church to have a look. She was surprised by how inexpensive the produce was, she said.
Hospital and Brandywine Creek Farms officials are pleased with how the program has started out, Everidge said: on its first foray into the community, the truck sold 730 pounds of fresh produce in about four hours.
Anything left over at the end of the day is donated to the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen in Greenfield or other area food pantries, Lawler said.
The farm has had good feedback from shoppers so far, he said.
“A lot of people are surprised, a lot of people are grateful because it’s hard for them to shop for healthy food,” Lawler said. “We’ve had people that showed up at multiple locations, and that’s awesome for us.”
The Healthy Harvest truck bearing fresh produce from Indiana farms will make several stops in the county on Tuesdays and Thursdays until first frost, said Brandywine Creek Farms owner Jonathan Lawler.
The remaining July dates are:
Tuesday, July 18
- 8 a.m.: Hancock Health Center, 219 E. Main St., Morristown
- 10:30 a.m.: Jane Pauley Health Center, 1107 N. State St., Greenfield
Thursday, July 20
- 8 a.m.: Hancock Wellness Center, 888 W. New Road, Greenfield
- 10:30 a.m.: Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St., Greenfield
- 1:30 p.m.: St. Michael Church, 519 Jefferson Blvd., Greenfield
- 4 p.m.: Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield
Tuesday, July 25
- 8 a.m.: Hancock Wellness Center, 8505 N. Clearview Drive, McCordsville
- 10:30 a.m. Fortville Public Library, 625 E. Broadway, Fortville
Thursday, July 27
- 8 a.m.: Knightstown Health Care Center, 224 W. Main St., Knightstown
- 10:30 a.m.: The Jane Pauley Community Health Center, 1107 N. State St., Greenfield
- 1:30 p.m.: Hancock Family Medicine, 120 W. McKenzie Road, Greenfield
- 4 p.m. Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield