Providing meaningful, important work for people with disabilities has been part of Lynchburg Grows’ mission from the beginning. We currently employ eight individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities. Some employees work alongside a job coach from Stand Up, Inc., while others work more independently. By choosing tasks best suited for each employee and their personal abilities, we ensure their success, even as we constantly challenge and encourage them to learn new job and social skills.
Our employees do the lion's share of the farm work, resulting in a record harvest of more than 23,000 pounds of food in 2017. The harvest supplies our community supported agriculture program, The Veggie Box, and our other programs that help increase access to fresh, healthy food in our community. Read more about those programs below.
Food Access: FreshRx
FreshRx is a veggie prescription program designed to help people with diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart problems and stroke. Local doctors identify patients that are willing to make lifestyle changes and prescribe them to our program. The patients attend nine weeks of nutrition and cooking classes at Lynchburg Grows, taught by a nutrition educator from Virginia Cooperative Extension. At the end of each class, participants take home a bag of fresh fruit and produce so that they can try the recipes they learn at home.
The FreshRx program is made possible through the generous support of Centra Foundation. We plan to build on the success of the inaugural 2017 sessions by continuing and expanding the program in years to come.
Food Access: The Veggie Van
More than a quarter of Lynchburg residents live in a food desert, according to a study by the USDA. That’s more than any other city in Virginia. Lynchburg Grows had been addressing this challenge through its support of community gardens, but the staff and board wanted to do more. In 2015, Live Healthy Lynchburg, in cooperation with Lynchburg Grows, came up with the idea of the mobile produce van. Together, they secured funding from Centra Foundation and purchased a 1996 Chevy van, then met with local church leaders to help them identify logical drop-off points in the areas with the most need.
Today, the van runs year-round, distributing produce at seven different locations throughout each month. Through a partnership with the USDA's SNAP, the van accepts EBT card payments. Shoppers can buy not only produce from Lynchburg Grows, but also fruit, bread, and products from other local farms.
Nearly all of Lynchburg Grows' day-to-day activities are aimed at serving the local community, from farm events like Volunteer Day, to group farm tours, to the thousands of pounds of food distributed to the hungry in the Lynchburg area through our produce-growing partnerships with St. John’s Episcopal Church and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.