Massey, Tricycle Gardens bring fresh produce to cancer patients
Research continues to show that proper nutrition plays an important role in cancer prevention and control. To help provide cancer patients access to fresh vegetables, VCU Massey Cancer Center has partnered with Richmond-based urban farm Tricycle Gardens to establish a monthly farm stand outside of Massey’s Dalton Oncology Clinic. Additionally, a grant from the McKesson Foundation allows eligible SNAP/EBT participants to receive $2 worth of produce for every $1 of benefits spent on the farm stand produce.
“The goal is to provide fresh produce to our patients who may not have access to it in their own communities,” said Shelly Arthur, a local landscape designer and Massey volunteer who helped lead the effort to coordinate the Farm Stand partnership. “Massey staff members and a group of other Massey volunteers were seeking a way to help educate patients about the importance of nutrition as it relates to cancer care and prevention, so we approached Tricycle Gardens and they were thrilled by the idea of partnering.”
Tricycle Gardens is a local nonprofit with the mission to “grow healthy food, healthy communities and a healthy local food system” that partners with organizations throughout Richmond to create healthier communities. Together, Massey and Tricycle Gardens determined that a sort of farmers’ market located outside of Massey on the corner of College and Marshall Streets in downtown Richmond would be the best way to serve the needs of patients and their families.
“We believe that health starts with what we eat, and what better way to improve the health of some of our city's most vulnerable residents than by bringing our local produce to the place where they are receiving their medical care,” said Isabel Eljaiek from Tricycle Gardens. “VCU Massey Cancer Center not only provides us with the opportunity and venue for this partnership, they also provide volunteer support, nutrition education and promotion, all of which makes this a truly reciprocal collaboration.”
To further the food budget of Massey’s lower-income patients, the initiative was awarded a $25,000 grant from the McKesson Foundation to offer eligible patients and families twice the amount of produce they would have otherwise been able to afford. For every dollar of SNAP/EBT benefits that is spent the purchaser can receive $2 worth of produce.
“This contribution can make a significant impact on someone’s monthly food budget and allow them not only to get more food, but also healthy food,” said Arthur.
All of the produce available for purchase is locally-grown and responsibly harvested. Massey is also providing easy-to-follow recipe cards with information on the health benefits of the ingredients. Additionally, Elizabeth Miller, a registered dietician at Massey, is available for consultations during select times at the farm stand to answer questions about diet and nutrition for cancer prevention and control.
Plans are in place to extend the now monthly Farm Stands to twice a month, during times that align with distribution of SNAP/EBT benefits and Massey’s outpatient clinic hours.
Arthur said, “We are very excited about offering this farm stand to Massey’s patients. We feel this type of educational outreach about nutrition and wellness for cancer prevention and control is a perfect complement to Massey's patient-centered approach to care.”
Farm stand dates are available at www.massey.vcu.edu/upcoming-events.