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Families pick up a bag of local healthy produce each week for 12 weeks at the NVRH Community Connections building in St. Johnsbury.

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital is once again partnering with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp to offer Health Care Shares, a farm-to-hospital public health program that connects Vermonters with fresh healthy local food.

Participants receive a large bag of locally grown produce each week for 12 weeks. The participants in the program were referred by their healthcare provider, by the NVRH Community Connections staff, or recruited by hospital staff. Thirty families are participating this year, up from twenty last year.

According to Vermont Department of Health data, only 23 percent of teens and 18 percent of adults in Caledonia County get the recommended number of fruits and vegetables each day.

“The connection between good nutrition and overall good health is clear”, said Laural Ruggles, NVRH vice president of marketing and community health improvement. “Getting enough healthy food to eat is important to a person’s physical health, and emotional and mental well-being.”

The food comes from farms in Vermont run by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. Each week during the growing season, the members grow and pack vegetables and herbs for about 400 families in the program.

The Health Care Shares program at NVRH is free to participants, funded solely by NVRH as part of the Community Benefits allocation.