Cody Burnett, Farm Manager (left) and Nobi Ennis Muhl, Farm Assistant (right) pictured at the Good Sam Urban Farm. 

Cody Burnett, Farm Manager (left) and Nobi Ennis Muhl, Farm Assistant (right) pictured at the Good Sam Urban Farm. 

Improving Patient Health With Local Food

Good Samaritan Health Center (known as Good Sam), is a full-service charitable clinic nestled in Westside Atlanta’s Bankhead neighborhood.  Its work centers around providing Christ-centered quality and affordable healthcare to those who need it most while providing a medical home for their patients.

Founded in 1999, Good Sam provides medical, dental, mental health counseling, health education, specialty care, and case management services for low-income families and individuals, specifically those in the 30318 and 30314 ZIP codes.

Good Sam’s innovative approach includes incorporating locally grown food from its own one-acre farm – an oasis tucked away behind the parking lot. Following a holistic “Full Circle of Health” model to treat diet-related disease like hypertension and diabetes, Good Sam provides access to fresh produce in an area designated as a food desert. They prescribe fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to patients through a subsidized daily farmers market.

As Founder and CEO Dr. Bill Warren explains, “There are two types of food issues – lack of food quantity and lack of food quality. In Good Sam’s neighborhood it’s not so much a lack of quantity as it is a lack of quality. As a doctor, how can I ask my patients to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables if they can’t access them in their community? This is why we added an urban farm – because nutrition is critical for overall health.”

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In the first five months of the 2017 growing season, the Good Samaritan Urban Farm has already harvested 4,200 pounds of produce. In 2016, the farm, managed by a full-time farm manager, provided 13,000 pounds of fresh produce to patients at the clinic and the wider community.

Through its partnership with Wholesome Wave Georgia, Good Sam is able to sell garlic, tomatoes, peppers and carrots grown at the farm at double value for SNAP/EBT customers through the Georgia Fresh For Less program.

Patients enrolled in the FVRx program attend clinical visits to outline healthy eating goals, receive “food prescriptions” that are redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at Good Sam’s farmers market, and learn how to prepare and eat healthy meals through cooking classes using Open Hand’s Cooking Matters curriculum.

In 2016, Good Sam’s FVRx program is estimated to have provided nearly 170 Atlantans with increased access to affordable, healthy food options. On average, participants’ waist circumference, body weight and BMI measurements decreased over the course of the program. Participants also reported increases in knowledge around the importance fruits and vegetables play in their family’s diet and how to prepare fresh produce.

"Good Samaritan Health Center is leading the way with innovative programming that ties together the production, distribution, and consumption of healthy food to improve patient health outcomes,” says Berney.

“Wholesome Wave Georgia's partnership with Good Samaritan Health Center, which brings the Georgia Fresh for Less and Fruit and Vegetable Prescription programs to its patients, is already a model of success in year two of implementation. Through participatory, skills-based nutrition and cooking education, access to healthy food, and a direct connection to farmers, Good Samaritan patients are consuming increasing amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, losing weight and investing in the local food economy.”

To learn more about leaders who are building a more resilient Metro Atlanta through locally grown food, check out Atlanta's Local Food Baseline Report.