With hearts that ached to serve the most vulnerable within their community, Drs. Rachel Zimmer and Kimberly Montez saw a need that went beyond their daily work in mobile health clinics, home visits, and nutritional support. As resources became scarcer each day, they worked fast to find funding through various grants and organizations just in time to start the Fresh Food RX Program only shortly after a state of national emergency was declared in the US during March of last year.
The Fresh Food RX is a Winston-Salem-based program that partners with local farmers, HOPE of Winston-Salem, Providence WS, Second Harvest Food Bank, New Communion, and Fair Share Farm to provide over 100 older adults each week with fresh produce and prepackaged meals tailored to meet their dietary needs. They initially relied on volunteers from the community and the Section of Gerontology at Wake Forest School of Medicine to provide their patients with home deliveries each week. Last November, the program was blessed in receiving the CAREs Act funding to continue their home deliveries, now meeting the needs of over 120 older adults and families suffering from food insecurity.
Curious about the process behind this generous act of kindness? It’s starts with Love Out Loud, a platform for donations to be made on behalf of the program, as well as an easy platform for volunteers to sign up to help during their free time. Then you have Emma, co-owner of Fair Share Farm, who decides what items will go into the box that week based on what is seasonally and locally available, as well as what participants seem to enjoy the most. She also tries to take into consideration participants’ feedback on produce that is easiest to enjoy without much preparation, such as less bulky vegetables that are safe to cut. In addition, Emma handles all coordination with growers and distributors, such as the meals provided by Second Harvest Food Bank and Providence WS. The food is then stored at HOPE of Winston-Salem, who provides refrigerator space and boxes for packing first thing Monday morning. New Communion, a faith-based mobile food pantry, will then deliver the produce boxes and meals each week on behalf of Fresh Food RX. Last but certainly not least, Sheena McNeil, the program coordinator, takes calls and receives feedback from the participants to share with every individual involved, and each week they are re-inspired to continue their work for the next.
Emma continued to explain that what keeps her excited “to pack 100+ boxes each week is their feedback from the people receiving the fresh food. They share how good the produce is, the improvement they can see in their health, and most important, the knowledge that without the program, they would not be able to have premium fresh foods because they cannot leave home easily – they are home bound. Every person deserves the joy of excellent produce and I hope that someone would want to do the same for me.”