Walton County’s first Food Rx Program completed by Resource Court Referrals

press release from DeDe Harris, Walton Wellness

Walton Wellness looks to the future as it addresses food sustainability, insecurity and literacy

MONROE, GA. – August 1, 2022- As the clarion call for mental health sounds across the nation, Walton Wellness completes Walton County’s first Mental Health Food Rx Program with referrals from Walton County’s Resource Court.

The Food Rx program utilizes the power of the written prescription to create a cognitive link with participants between healthy habits, food and their wellbeing.

“The opportunities for our participants to learn about the relationship between healthy food choices and physical health, and learn practical cooking skills and techniques to accentuate healthy food choices is invaluable. Physical wellbeing directly affects self-confidence and mental wellbeing. Walton Wellness, through Food Rx, provides a safe and comfortable learning environment, which is another important resource to help our participants move forward successfully in life,” said Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster, presiding Judge for the Walton County Resource Court.

The Food RX program provides nutrition education, cooking classes, and access to free produce for Resource Court referred participants.

Each Food Rx cohort is together for six months. The first three months are spent in combination nutrition education & cooking classes. Alex Lundy, Health Education Coordinator for Walton Wellness, alongside Sous Chef Rosalind Simmons educate participants about healthy eating and healthy cooking.

During the three-month education component, participants are provided all of the ingredients for recipes which they have practiced cooking in class. This aids in retention, compliance, and integration of the new foods and practices learned in class. After three months of classes, participants are transitioned to their produce prescription provided from The Field Garden twice monthly for the remaining three months of the program.

“I just got home and have been going through the bags of vegetables and herbs and I just want to say thank you again for all of your hard work and dedication in teaching the classes and in picking the fresh produce and giving of your hard work and time to help others. And now I am making my son and myself some salad for dinner and some other veggies”, a recent participant said.

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“The goal of our FoodRx program is to increase knowledge and implementation of healthy eating habits, healthy cooking methods, and new recipes, fresh herbs, and spices, all while decreasing food insecurity. By combining nutrition education, hands-on cooking classes, and provision of free and healthy food, we enable our participants to make true lifestyle changes over the course of an interactive and supportive six-month program. Using this type of program design in work with the mental health services and holistic case management that the Walton County Resource Court provides is truly innovative and we are so excited to be a part of this partnership working in Walton County”, said Alex Lundy, Health Education Coordinator for Walton Wellness.

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In 2022, use of The Field Garden, located on the grounds of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, was expanded to include providing fresh fruits and vegetables to a mental health cohort as well as a physician referred cohort, for patients who have been diagnosed with a lifestyle chronic illness such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. The garden is operated by Walton Wellness, Inc. and with the help of Walton County inmates is able to harvest a donatable bounty each year.

“Walton Wellness sets the goal for this cohort as increasing knowledge of healthy recipes, cooking skills and use of fresh herbs and spices, as well as self-reported evidence of an increase in cooking with fresh ingredients at home and decrease in regular consumption of processed foods”, said DeDe Harris, Executive Director, Walton Wellness, Inc.

Walton Wellness, Inc. has its eyes set on program expansion. In a few months Walton Wellness’s second Food Rx cohort for 2022, with attendees referred by local clinicians, will be complete as well.

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