By Ede Rothaus
A “Win, Win, Win.” How many times do we hear of—well—anything that actually matches that description? (Anything that meets that criteria?)
Good news! A new program created by New York City’s Department of Health does. And people taking medication for high blood pressure, farmers at Greenmarkets in all five boroughs, and local pharmacies are its beneficiaries.
Pharmacy to Farm was designed for people with high blood pressure (hypertension) who use an EBT card for SNAP (also known as food stamps) to buy fresh vegetables and fruit from NYC Greenmarkets. In order to do so, participants are given $30 worth of Health Bucks monthly to encourage purchase of locally grown produce.
As of this writing, between 500 and 600 people in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan have signed up for Pharmacy to Farm benefits. The program has been carefully rolled out during this initial trial period, funded through 2020.
Marina Mavromatis, pharmacist at New London Pharmacy, reports that more than 45 people have joined the program in the last five months and that interest and awareness of it is increasing. Her staff, which includes an in-house nutritionist, is available for advice and questions about the program.
How Does Pharmacy to Farm Program Work:
1: Be 18 or older; take medication for high blood pressure; use EBT card for SNAP.
2: Select one participating pharmacy and fill your prescription for high blood pressure medication there every month.
3: When you pick up your prescription show the pharmacist your EBT card and fill out a short questionnaire. Get your Pharmacy to Farm “fruit and vegetable prescription” and bring it to the Greenmarket. (In our area Union Square Greenmarket is closest.)
4: At the Greenmarket information tent exchange the prescription for $30 in Health Bucks. These are coupons in $2.00 denominations that are used to purchase ONLY fresh vegetables and fruit at all NYC farmers markets.
5: Health Bucks are valid January 1st through December 31st of each year. They do not have to be used in the month they are issued. Any portion of the $30 can be saved for use at another time during that calendar year. They are not exchangeable for cash and cannot be sold to non-participants. Health Bucks are used exclusively for fresh produce. Sorry—no eggs, dairy, bakery, meat, alcohol, plants or flowers—just fruit and veggies.
Back to the Win, Win, Win. Our local farmers are doing more business, our local pharmacies—not chain stores—are filling more prescriptions, and our SNAP neighbors with high blood pressure are eating fresh healthy food they can more easily afford to buy.
And to all the folks at NYC Health Department who devised this innovative program—this reporter says BRAVO!
Participating Manhattan Pharmacies
New London Pharmacy
246 8th Avenue, (212) 243-4987
NuCare Pharmacy & Surgical
250 9th Avenue, (212) 462-2525
New York City Pharmacy
206 First Avenue, (212) 253-8686
New Amsterdam Drug Mart
698 Amsterdam Avenue, (212) 865-9700
909 Columbus Avenue, (212) 222-6388
Drug Mart II
4873 Broadway, (212) 569-4400