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CSA & Healthcare: Treating long-term health conditions with fresh produce

Fresh produce has numerous health benefits - but unfortunately, nutritious food is not easily accessible to everyone. And for many people with chronic health conditions, medical care costs strain already tight budgets and makes access to fresh produce even more challenging. That’s why, in northern Wisconsin, FairShare-endorsed farmer Kat Becker of Cattail Organics and health insurance provider Aspirus Health Plan have teamed up to provide CSA shares to members with long-term health conditions.

For the last three years, Kat has been providing fresh, locally grown produce through her CSA to members of Aspirus Health Plans’ Comprehensive Care Coordination program. Aspirus Health Plan refers participants with long-term health conditions (from diabetes to high blood pressure and congestive heart failure) to receive a CSA share. In addition to fresh produce, those participating also receive recipes and tips on how to use the vegetables included in each week’s share.

Participants in the program receive a 20 week CSA share as well as an extended 4-week fall share. By providing access to 24 weeks of fresh, nutritious produce to members with chronic health conditions, Aspirus Health Plan hopes to remove financial barriers to eating the fresh foods that have the potential to improve chronic health conditions.

“We would rather pay for people to get healthy food options than see members prescribed to a fifth or sixth prescription,” says Lauren Schrage, Director of Operations at Aspirus Health Plan. “We wish we had a Kat in every county we serve.” In 2021, Aspirus Health Plan provided CSA shares to 40 members. But because the program is funded through the health plan, it will be difficult to expand much beyond this