(Im)Proving the CSA Model
A Scientific Study to Demonstrate the Health Impacts of CSA Participation to Insurers
IN THE LOCAL NEWS:
- Study to look at health impact of taking part in a CSA: Just Roots, health clinic project to involve 100, published in the Greenfield Recorder on 11/30/2016
- Local Researchers Seek to Measure Health Benefits of Access to Farmshares, published in the Montague Reporter on 12/12/2016
Ample evidence demonstrates that average Americans consume far less fruits and vegetables than they should and that each additional portion of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. If they ate USDA-recommended portions, 127,000 deaths per year and $17 billion in annual medical costs could be saved. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), memberships in a farm’s production that ensure weekly distributions of fresh fruits and vegetables, can make an important contribution to improving health outcomes. Just Roots, together with the Community Health Center of Franklin County (CHCFC) and a distinguished Harvard primary care doctor and researcher, will carry out a research program during 2017 – 2018 to evaluate the health impacts on individuals and households of participating in a CSA share. The study is supported by the US Department of Agriculture’s competitive Farmer’s Market and Local Food Production Program.
- The Hypothesis
The study has two related hypotheses: 1) participation in a subsidized CSA leads to improved dietary quality and health status, and 2) subsidized CSA participation represents a reasonable ‘return on investment’ as a way to help improve health for vulnerable patients.
- The Study
The CHCFC will implement a simple program of education in healthy eating for its patients and, over the course of several months, randomly select households for participation in the study. 50 individuals will agree to first-time CSA-participation and 50 to participation in a control group that is not offered CSA-participation. Just Roots will track whether CSA-participants make weekly food pick-ups and ensure comparable and consistent ease of access to those pick-ups. At pick-ups, Just Roots will also gather basic quantitative data regarding consumption patterns of CSA-participants (e.g. whether they consume the CSA food) and qualitative data regarding their experience – how they prepared the food, how they feel, etc. Three times over the course of the year, CHCFC staff will weigh CSA-participants, collect blood samples and gather other basic health indicators, Dr. Seth A. Berkowitz of Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital will analyze the data and perform statistical analysis necessary to assess the significance of changes in participant health. Dr. Berkowitz will also quantify the impact of changes in health indicators on the cost effectiveness of the program for health promotion.
- The Objectives
Should a rigorously implemented analysis indicate that CSAs improve health outcomes, CHCFC and Just Roots will ensure the results reach the insurance community, advocate for a health benefit for CSAs comparable to the one provided for gymnasium membership, and expand the curriculum of health-center focused education nationwide.Impact of Additional ResourcesJust Roots seeks additional resources to broaden and improve the study and its impact. With additional resources, the
Study Team will:
- Improve the extent of intervention – add cooking classes, expand transportation/distribution, increase community engagement/member support and other strategies to increase consumption of the CSA food provided;
- Enhance off-season offerings – ensure that during the period when the CSA is not in production (late fall to early spring) participants can access fresh soup and other fresh food.