Eating healthy means fruits and veggies should equal at least one-third of your daily intake. But the CDC estimates that only 10% of adults meet that important guideline. Eating healthy requires time, research, and—more often than not—costs more. To combat this, Harbor Regional Health medical providers and the Grays Harbor Community Hospital Foundation are partnering with local farms to prescribe fresh, healthy fruits and veggies at no cost to participating patients.

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Sky Island Farm owners Bil Thorn and Kathe Harwell produce organic foods, flowers and more from their Hoquiam location. Photo courtesy: Harbor Regional Health

Harbor Regional Health’s Bithia Hatch is spearheading the Garden RX program, which started in 2019. She explains that the original participating 12 households blossomed into an opportunity to serve 20 and 40 households this year. “The program will be divided into two sessions, with the choice to participate in both sessions,” says Hatch. Session one runs from June 28 through August 28 and session two starts August 29 until October 30.

Fresh produce comes thanks to Sky Island Farm, the county’s longest running and largest CSA. They started partnering with the hospital from day one of this project and even deliver boxes to homebound participants. “Patients (especially those with food insecurities) will need to receive the prescription from a provider at one of our Rural Health Clinics in Aberdeen, Hoquiam or Montesano,” explains Hatch. “Once they fill out the form, they can return it to the clinic they received it from, then they will be contacted for verification of information and preference of delivery or pick-up.”

Once selected, participants can either order items online or by visiting the Sky Island Farm itself or their booth at the Aberdeen Farmer’s Market. If they lack access to the internet or personal transportation, a standard delivery of assorted produce will be dropped off. Past participants are allowed to re-apply but everything is on a first come/first served basis with a limited number of total spots.

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Through Garden RX, CSA-type boxes can be picked up or delivered to the patients home. Photo courtesy: Harbor Regional Health

“This type of partnership is important as it demonstrates one of many ways to better serve our community,” says Hatch. “This is a win-win-win opportunity, as patients gain another resource for a healthier lifestyle, a community-based business gets well-deserved exposure, and our medical group continues to grow in ways to pursue best practice.”

“Having access to fresh produce benefits the individual as well as the community in which they live,” continues Hatch. “Health IS wealth! We know that healthier choices generally mean healthier output, healthier output means increased productivity, which in turn encourages more wherewithal to contribute to society.”

Reports from Northwest Harvest show that “1 in 10 Washingtonians consistently struggle with hunger [and] 1 in 6 Washington kids live in a household that faces challenges in putting enough food on the table…Equitable access to nutritious food is a catalyst for achieving stability. If every person at risk of hunger had consistent access to nutritious food, our communities would be healthier and stronger.”

This goes hand in hand with Harbor Regional Health’s mission and values. They work hard to play “an important role in supporting the health and vitality of Grays Harbor County. HRH is committed to meeting the evolving health needs of our community and enhancing access to high-quality care in your community.”

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Patients must apply for the program through their provider and can re-apply as long as space is available. Photo courtesy: Harbor Regional Health

If you can, consider signing up for one of Sky Island Farm’s delicious CSA shares or a la carte on their website. A standard 18-week share starts each June and costs approximately $25 a week. They also offer delivery options to Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Cosmopolis, Ocean Shores, Copalis Crossing, Pacific Beach, Quinault, Wishkah, Montesano and Central Park. For those with limited income, ask about their sliding scale or payment plans by calling 360.593.4775.

Want to learn about organic farming at home? Read more about the Sky Island Farm Training Program then sign up for one of their immersive weeklong classes which run through the end of September. With a focus on sustainability, students of all ages can get their hands dirty working with fruit, veggies, herbs and cut flowers. Follow the Farm on Facebook or Instagram for updates and new additions.

Harbor Regional Health is also on Facebook and Instagram. There you will find a recent radio interview with Bithia Hatch and Kyle Pauley about the Garden RX program partnership with HRH primary care providers.

Medical research shows that “Unhealthy choices usually come down to three main factors: less money, less time and more taste…But long-term, unhealthy eating choices can catch up with you. Both financially and physically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of U.S. adults are obese, which can put them at a higher risk for conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.” In Grays Harbor County, the Garden RX program allows patients to enjoy a summer’s bounty of good health.

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