The Farm-Based Wellness Program demonstrates how participation in growing food, cooking and nutrition education, and behavior change interventions positively impact the health, social capital, and food security of individuals diagnosed with or at risk for diet-related health conditions.
The program is a partnership between Gather New Haven and health centers in New Haven that care for the city’s most medically underserved community members, including: Fair Haven Community Health Center, Yale New Haven Saint Raphael Campus, HAVEN Free Clinic, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, and Yale Primary Care. These health centers deliver a full spectrum of medical services to over 50,000 New Haven residents, the majority of whom face diet-related, chronic disease risks and economic hardship.
Healthcare providers from these institutions refer low-income, adult patients with diet-related, chronic disease risk factors to the Farm-Based Wellness Program. During the summer growing season, these referred patients and their families come weekly to a 2-hour program session including cooking demonstrations, nutrition classes, exercise and gardening lessons.
Each week, participants take home shares of fresh vegetables and fruits grown on Gather New Haven farm sites along with culturally relevant recipes that build upon a foundation of knowledge for improving their health. Children of participants are invited to attend a simultaneous Youth Farm-Based Wellness Program, where they participate in gardening, cooking, environmental, and nutrition education designed specifically for them.
The program runs during the summer for up to 19 weeks (fewer weeks in 2021) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Phoenix Press farm site. Tuesday sessions are conducted in Spanish and Thursdays are offered in English as an effort to create broader, more equitable access to the program. A Saturday class is offered bilingually during the summer for participants who wish to make-up a class they missed during the week or to engage in more exercise and nutrition education throughout the week. A monthly meeting is offered during the fall, winter, and spring, to keep participants encouraged and engaged with a community of support.