Bringing Veggies to the Clinic

In the fall of 2017, St. John's faculty Anne Keenan, MD, learned that the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) had partnered with two HealthEast clinics to deliver fresh CSA shares to patients. Motivated by a personal interest in local farms, she asked if Phalen could participate. In summer 2018, HAFA began delivering bundles of fresh produce to the family medicine clinic, where staff distributed them to patients experiencing food insecurity.


Anne Keenan (far right) chats with Dr Jim Letts of HealthEast Roselawn and Pakou Hang, the founder of HAFA, on the HAFA farm.

The program, funded by a grant awarded to HAFA, is an innovative opportunity to support the health of families in need by supplying them with the resources to make fresh, healthy meals. Physicians at Phalen conduct food insecurity screenings and refer patients to the program, while the staff manages the logistics of distributing CSA shares. Dr. Keenan especially credits clinic manager Chelsea McGuire and clinic supervisor Jody Fiscus for their hard work facilitating the program. To date, 20 families at Phalen have received free food. 

The team at Phalen is collecting data - including demographic, health markers, and eating habits - which will be shared with HAFA. At the final survey, conducted in late November, Phalen participants will receive a Thanksgiving turkey. 

"Many families have expressed how meaningful this has been," says Dr. Keenan. "One said they often had to decide between buying food or medicine. This program allowed them to eat healthy and not be so scrapped." Another family, she says, cried with joy when they received their first box of produce. 

By February 2019, the team will finish gathering data and finalizing next steps.