New food-as-medicine programs increase access to nutritious, local food

Residents in the Indiana Uplands region are taking steps to improve their health with a new food-as-medicine initiative in Greene and Daviess counties that is providing local food and resources as part of the statewide Indiana Healthy Opportunities for People Everywhere (I-HOPE) effort.

The program provides meal kits, with many ingredients sourced directly from the communities, to residents who qualify through programs such as SNAP, WIC, and other local services. Participants also receive supplies that support meal preparation, such as oil, spices, knives, cutting boards, pots, and peelers. The program provides nutrition and cooking lessons based on the weekly recipe each week, in person at the Linton Farmers’ Market in Greene County and virtually in Daviess County.

This initiative harnesses a food-as-medicine approach to strengthen local food systems and increase health and well-being across the Indiana Uplands region. Led by Dr. Julia Valliant of Indiana University Sustainable Food Systems Science and The Ostrom Workshop in collaboration with the IU Center for Rural Engagement. The Greene and Daviess County programs are two of seven Food as Medicine programs launching or expanding in southern Indiana this spring as a part of this collaboration. Other communities hosting these programs include Crawford, Lawrence, Jackson, Orange, and Washington counties.

Many local and regional partners spanning the food, health and education sectors have collaborated to launch this program, including: Linton Farmers’ Market, Purdue Extension, Greene County WIC Program, Greene County General Hospital, Greene County Health Clinic, Pregnancy Choices, RSVP Volunteer Center, Produce Patch, Indiana Rural Health Association Healthy Start Communities that C.A.R.E., Daviess Community Hospital, I-HOPE, Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement and Indiana University Sustainable Food Systems Science.

The two-year Indiana Healthy Opportunities for People Everywhere initiative, or I-HOPE, is deploying teams across the state to facilitate community-level conversations and develop strategies to address the factors that prevent people from living their healthiest lives. The work examines longstanding risk factors, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hoosiers' health. The effort is being funded by a $34.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This program is supported by funds made available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, under NH75OT000073. The content of this story is that of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official position of or endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.

IU Sustainable Food Systems Science couples field, lab-based and big-data research between IU’s accomplished food, nutrition, agro-ecological, decision sciences and systems scholars to forge a networked effort in the study of Sustainable Food Systems Science. Our integrated approach seeks to understand sustainable food system development, from farm to fork, by studying the leverage points that can be used to build more resilient and sustainable food systems that support food justice, public health and well-being, sustain more livelihoods and improve civic and community life.