hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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July 4, 2013

Hospital's farmers market called 'prescription' for health

Patients to get vouchers for fresh food

Haverhill has long had a farmers market where residents can buy fresh produce grown locally.

Now, Merrimack Valley Hospital is planning its own version of the market — with the help of a city farmer.

Hospital officials said they are taking this unique approach to make healthy food available to patients and staff and impress upon them the need to eat healthy.

The “prescription’’ will be administered from 1 to 6 p.m. from July 9 to the last Tuesday in October outside the hospital at 140 Lincoln Ave.

“This summer, we are offering a new type of prescription: Vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Kate Bailey, manager of community relations for Steward Healthcare Systems at Merrimack Valley Hospital.

“Through our partnership with Mass Farmers Markets, qualified patients and their families will receive vouchers from their primary care physicians with the ultimate aim of increasing the amount of nutritious fruits and vegetables in their diets,” Bailey said.

The hospital’s farmers market will be open to the public, but is geared toward patients. Patients’ vouchers will be honored at the hospital’s market as well as the larger farmers market downtown next to the police station.

Hospital officials said they hope the market will encourage qualified patients and their families to eat healthy if doctors prescribe certain foods as part of the patients’ health care regimen.

Marlene Stasinos of Chris’ Farm Stand and Silsby Farm on Salem Street in Bradford will run the hospital market. A member of the Team Haverhill volunteer civic group will manage the program.

“Kate (Bailey) had an idea that she formed with us and came up with the voucher idea that everyone liked,” said Jeff Grassie of Team Haverhill, who helps organize the downtown market.

“We’re still running our weekly farmers market downtown every Saturday through to the end of October,” Grassie said. “But this program (at the hospital) gives our efforts more reach into the community.’’

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