fresh veggiesExercising regularly and eating healthy foods can help prevent a wide range of health conditions. But what happens if you don’t have access to healthy food, or know how to prepare it?

Many families throughout Vermont don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, find them hard to afford, or may not have the culinary knowledge or equipment to prepare these healthy foods. This makes getting proper nutrition and staying healthy a daunting task. A lack of proper nutrition can lead to chronic conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

The Health Care Share program of Vermont is designed to teach the importance of nutrition to families in need.  It gives them access to fresh fruits and vegetables, educates them on how to prepare it, and encourages a healthy lifestyle.

This is the single best thing that’s ever improved my health. It was a life changer.” — Health Care Share participant”

Learning to be healthy…together

The Health Care Share project, in partnership with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps of Vermont, offers a free 12-week program that encourages families to commit to healthier eating by providing access to farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry and meat products, and shows them how to prepare these foods. It also teaches them how to shop on a budget. Participating families are identified by their primary care providers at Central Vermont Medical Center, the UVM Medical Center, Winooski Family Health and Richmond Family Medicine.

Each week, participating families receive a basket of food and a free demonstration of how to prepare it. The families learn basic skills, including how to properly handle a knife, and learn how to use kitchen tools, such as a meat thermometer and salad spinner. The program’s weekly newsletter includes recipes and tips for health. Families are also encouraged to bring in their own recipes.

If they choose, families can work with health coaches, nutritionists and diabetes educators. They can also take advantage of workshops to help them stop smoking and manage chronic conditions.

Many patients report that the program has helped them “learn so much beyond food.” They are losing weight, trying new things, and are spending more time with their families. These successes provide more incentive for these families to get – and stay – healthy.

Learn more about the Health Care share program

Holly VanWinkle is a primary care practice supervisor at the UVM Medical Center Family Medicine Milton, Vermont.

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