While Tulsa has made tremendous progress in many areas, we continued to struggle with equality indicators that lead to urban resilience. Many economic and community factors, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to food shortages and highlighted the vulnerabilities within our overtaxed healthcare system.
In a presentation to the Tulsa Food Security Council in 2021, Dr. Kent Farish of Crossover Health Services shared that his diabetic patients—compliant with prescriptions and doc visits—were continuing to get worse! Dr. Farish presented research from the Geisinger Fresh Food Farmacy,a study that demonstrated how diabetics could reduce their A1c levels by 1-2% in a year or less through a combination of education and consumption of healthier foods. He concluded that this lack of access to education and fresh produce was a significant factor in his patient’s ability to manage their own disease.
Dr. Farish, with the help of the Council, put together a subcommittee of potential community and funding partners to test this concept in North Tulsa. FreshRx founder Erin Martin was asked to join the committee and influenced the group to source local, regeneratively grown produce for the patients in the trial. Erin—a gerontologist whose background is in how nutritious foods affect lifespan and chronic diseases—knew that lobbying for local, organic produce would not only increase the nutritious content of the food improving health outcomes, but also support the economy of North Tulsa.
The pilot program of FreshRx was launched in April of 2021, has tripled in size, and since gained national recognition for the innovative way we systemically address food and health.
We’re a USDA funded non-profit food prescription program (PRx). PRxs are medical or preventive services that give healthy fruits and vegetables to patients with diet-related health conditions, who are food insecure, and/or face challenges in accessing nutritious foods.
In 2021, we started the first-of-its-kind PRx in the state of Oklahoma. We are proud to receive funding from private philanthropic organizations, private donors, and the federal government. Our federal funding comes from the USDA NIFA GusNIP programming. GusNIP supports projects that demonstrate the impact of PRxs on fruit and vegetable consumption, food insecurity and healthcare usage for vulnerable populations. To see our grant, and other nutritional program funded by GusNIP, visit the Nutritional Incentives Hub.
A central goal of both GusNip and FreshRx is to build health equity in North Tulsa. To do that, we work to address:
historical and contemporary injustices
obstacles to health and health care
reducing preventable health disparities (those differences in opportunities experienced by people disadvantaged by their social or economic status, location, or environment)
Health disparities for people living with diabetes in North Tulsa can be greatly reduced through nutritional interventions like FreshRx.
We’re committed to giving nutrient dense, locally grown produce to people to help manage their diabetes and improve their overall health. Through person-centered care, education, and food as medicine, we give people more ways to stay healthy.
Our patients are people living with diabetes in North Tulsa. Most are African American, come from a census tract with a life expectancy of almost 6 years less than the rest of the city, and use SoonerCare or are dual eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. After graduation from FreshRx, on average, they’re dropping their A1c levels by 2.2%, losing weight, and reducing their blood pressure by 13 points!
Our farmers are small, sustainable, and local, who are bettering their growing techniques and expanding, while diversifying their crops. For every dollar we spend on local food producers, FreshRx puts $1.70 into the local economy through the purchase of supplies and labor. And we can ensure our patients get the best, most nutrient-dense fresh foods available.
Our providers doctors and other health care professionals working to increase health equity North Tulsa by giving their patients additional support and resources. We’re helping to protect ERs, give greater clinical access to the region, and the estimated cost savings to the system as a whole is upwards of $24k per person for a 1-2% reduction in a patient’s A1c level.
Ralph Weidling is one of our Produce Coordinators. Ralph works with both FreshRx and RG Foods and feels that for the first time ever, his jobs have true meaning and impact on the community! He’s a multi-disciplinary artist and has owned The Painted Acres farm in Sand Springs since 2017. Ralph is combining his work on the farm with his art to create a deeper connection to the world and an oasis of eco-scaping, environmental therapy, and artistic endeavor. He truly feels blessed to be able to use his work to support his dreams.
Jalen, our Produce Coordinator, oversees our aggregating produce at our food hub and distribution site. Jalen joined us in 2022 after working in grocery retail and food service. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management and is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. While Jalen has always been in athlete, he became an advocated for his own health when he used a whole food diet to go from 300lbs down to 195lbs! Jalen has seen what a healthy diet can do first-hand and is devoted to our mission of providing fresh produce to underserved communities.
Debra, our Outreach Coordinator, helps to enroll new patients and connect them with resources. Debra joined us after a career in the health insurance field and completing our first program year of FreshRx!! She’s passionate about helping our patients and being an example that “if you work the program, it works!” She began FreshRx with an uncontrolled A1c level of 13.6 and graduated with a 6.6! And, Debra saw results in only 11 weeks!
Tina, our Program Manager, oversees the day-to-day operations and our food distribution. Tina joined us shortly after our inception in 2021 and has been instrumental in helping us grow. She came to us from the wellness industry, working both with chiropractic and massage. Tina’s passionate about creating a safe and educational environment for our patients to heal. She is enthusiastic about creating delicious vegan meals for her friends and family.
As our Education Director, Kiandra oversees our cooking and nutrition classes and content for our YouTube channel. Kiandra joined FreshRx in 2022 after working in restaurant management. Kiandra holds a national nutrition certification from Utah State University and has a passion for helping others. She’s a great resource for our patients, calling on her own experience with Type 1 Diabetes and losing over 125 lbs. She continues to use whole foods and nutrition to manage her diabetes.
Erin’s passion for helping others started at fifteen after working in a retirement community. After working on long-term care and serving low-income seniors in HUD housing, Erin saw clearly the inequities in our healthcare system particularly polypharmacy and processed foods. Erin is a Gerontologist and certified in Regenerative Soil Advocacy. She’s passionate about spreading the gospel of food is medicine and the link to soil health.
Because we provide medical interventions, we have a Medical Advisory Board. This group meets regularly and gives medical oversight to the FreshRx program model, including any medical testing, data, and evaluation.
Julieth Barlow, RN
Registered Nurse & Case Manager, Humana
Eli Camp, ND, DHANP
Co-Owner & Founder, Vital Health Publishing
Thomas Duffy, DO
Family Medicine Physician, OSU Family Medicine
Kent Farish, MD
Physician, Crossover Health Services
Felecia Froe, MD
Founder & CEO, Money With Mission
Kyle Simmons, PharmD
Co-President, Boomer Solutions
We also work with an Internal Review Board (IRB) at Langston University to provide ethical oversight, help us maintain HIPAA compliance, and review patient documents.
We also contract with Oklahoma State University to act as our data partner, evaluating our pre- and post- survey data, to determine whether or not we are achieving our program goals (i.e. calculating if increased consumption of fresh produce by our patients does actually correlated to better health).
Food as medicine is the use of nutritious and wholesome foods to support and enhance our overall health and well-being. The food we consume not only serves as a source of energy, but also contains nutrients that can positively impact our bodies and promote healing.
Using food as medicine has the potential to prevent, manage, and even treat various health conditions. A good diet plays a crucial role in maintaining a balanced immune system, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, and supporting optimal bodily functions. By being intentional with what we eat, we can harness the healing power of food to improve health outcomes.
When we eat whole, unprocessed foods rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, these food work to reduce inflammatory and boost immunity promoting more wellness and resilience.
And the best part is that food as medicine recognizes the uniqueness of each person’s specific dietary needs. It encourages people to explore different foods and customize what they eat in a way that works for them.
By making conscious choices about what we eat, we can proactively support our bodies' natural healing processes and achieve optimal health.