Athens’ FarmRX Program Is Redefining Prescriptions

The welcome booth at the Athens’ farmer’s market hosts a cheerful sign for Farm RX program participants. (Photo taken by Victoria Eymard, Graduate Newsroom at Athens’ Farmer’s Market in Bishop Park, Oct. 9, 2021)

Marcia Singson, a local resident, is switching the trip to the pharmacy with a trip to the farmer’s market.

She participates in Athens’ Food As Real Medicine Prescription Program, or Farm RX, a program on a mission to combat both food insecurity and growing health concerns among Athens’ low-income residents. 

A infographic describing the FarmRX program

The six month program provides organic, locally grown, produce to participants each week, along with cooking, nutrition and wellness programs. The ultimate goal of Farm RX is to produce lifestyle and habit changes for long term improvement in the participants’ health.

“What Farm RX has allowed us to do is not only try different vegetables and fruits that I normally wouldn’t, but also offered some really good and healthy recipes.” Singson says. 

About one in six Clarke County residents are food insecure, according to Feeding America’s 2019 “Map the Meal Gap” study. Yet, according to the same study, over 6,000 of these residents do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, due to their income. Part of Farm RX’s mission is to help those residents. 

According to a USDA study published in 2016, most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, with many members of low-income households citing costs as the reason. 

“It’s helping us sell more food. I see a lot of people getting a lot of food for their families.”

Dylan Payne

Lacking proper nutrition can  lead to chronic health issues, especially in children the Feeding America study points out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poor eating habits contribute to conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  The Farm RX program prescribes patients healthy food through partnerships with health clinics.

Food as Medicine

Farm RX is a six-month program that provides organic, locally grown produce each week, as well as nutrition, cooking and wellness classes, said Monica Bledsoe, the Farm RX Coordinator.

One adult from the household is responsible for joining the program and completing the requirements, but produce is provided for the entire family at a rate of $1 a day, per person in the household. FarmRX currently partners with Mercy Health Center, which serves a low income population and is able to refer good candidates to the program.

Vegetables from a local farm laid out at the farmer's market
Produce from Hearts of Harvest Farm, one of the participating vendors at the Athens’ Farmer’s Market in Bishop Park. (Photo by Victoria Eymard, Graduate Newsroom)

Eating a more balanced and nutritious diet can help reduce sodium levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure, as well as contribute to a healthier weight. These things are all linked to long term health concerns, says a fact sheet from the CDC.

Singson said that besides providing her household with produce, the classes have helped her shop healthier, teaching her how to better understand nutrition labels and recognize which items are best to include in her diet. 

“I think it’s way better than prescription drugs and pharmaceutical options and all that,” says Dylan Payne of Cedar Grove farm. “I think if people ate better and got a little exercise we wouldn’t have half the medical conditions we have right now,” he said. 

Giving Back to the Community

By partnering with local farms, like Cedar Grove, to provide the produce, Farm RX also helps give back to the community and support local business. Currently, seven local farms participate in the program. 

These tokens are given to Farm RX participants to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms at the Athens’ Farmer’s Market. (Photo taken by Victoria Eymard, Graduate Newsroom in Bishop Park on Oct, 9 2021)

At the farmer’s market twice a week, participants check in with volunteers and then are given their allotted amount of money in tokens, which are then accepted by the farmers at their personal produce stands. At the end of the market, the farmers then turn in those tokens to the Farm RX staff and are reimbursed with a check, Bledsoe explained.

“It’s helping us sell more food. It’s bringing more people who are apt to use their tokens because they can’t use them anywhere else. I see a lot of people getting a lot of food for their families,” Payne said. 

Payne also shared with me that he appreciates how the program has brought more diversity to the market.

Harvesting Support

The program is currently hosting 53 families, but Bledsoe would love to increase the support to more people in need. 

“Our partners are in a position to grow to meet the demand of more families, we are just limited by funding,” Bledsoe said. 

The program also takes volunteers to help at the markets, as well as to help provide transportation or deliveries to participants. 

Bledsoe said that removing additional barriers for participants helps maintain a high active participation rate throughout the program. 

“I just can’t say enough good things.”

Marcia Singson

“One of the barriers that we help to remove is transportation, we can provide transportation for any of our participants,” Bledsoe said, “Or even some of our participants get their food delivered directly to their home.”

Singson, a participant, is grateful for the program and the encouragement and community she has found throughout. 

“I just can’t say enough good things,” she said.

Monica Bledsoe, Farm RX Coordinator, counting tokens at the Athens’ Farmer’s Market in Bishop Park on Oct 9, 2021. (Photo by Victoria Eymard, Graduate Newsroom)

Anyone interested in supporting the program financially or by volunteering can find Monica Bledsoe at the Athens Farmers Market welcome booth every Wednesday at Creature Comforts from 4-7p.m. or every Saturday at Bishop Park from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. They can also reach out to Monica by email at

Article and media by: Victoria Eymard