The Zenger Farm program boasts big health benefits

After a successful start to its program, Zenger Farm is looking to expand its Community Supported Agriculture programs at health clinics, gyms and churches.

The “Prescription CSA,” “Fitness CSA” and “Congregation CSA” are part of the same program intended to boost health and access to local farmer products.COURTESY PHOTO: LAURA JENNINGS - A cyclist heads off with a bag of veggies picked up from Door of Hope church last year.

Zenger Farm project manager Bryan Allan said Portland State University has helped crunch the numbers to show that the 145 families are seeing health benefits.

PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions’ Betty Izumi, assistant professor of community health at PSU, found that a significant number of participants were suddenly meeting the federal dietary recommendation of two vegetable servings per day.

“What this program shows is that the convenience factor is important,” Izumi said. “When people are picking up vegetables at a place they’d be going to anyway, their participation rate really improves. I was also surprised to hear from low-income populations that they were actually replacing the snack foods they used to consume with vegetables. One participant said she lost 12 pounds over the course of the season just from changing her diet.”

The program is currently at four sites but organizers are hoping to expand that to 15 sites across the state this season. Allan has created a toolkit that he says will make the program easy to replicate — after he plays matchmaker between interested sites and farmers.

The initiative was started through a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a way to promote the sale of vegetables. Since then, Kaiser Permanente and the Community Foods Project have also signed on.

Allan said the sites have different reasons for wanting to participate in the program. For gyms, the CSA can be a marketing tool. For churches, they are interested in being a resource for the community.

But the health clinics are taking a scientific approach and attempting to cement the connection between healthy food and healthy bodies.

“That’s basically a holistic program that changes people’s eating behavior,” Allan said, noting the cooking classes and three-year research study planned for the next phase of the program.

The CSA season starts in June. Interested gyms and churches can contact Allan to sign up: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See our previous coverage:

Shasta Kearns Moore
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