ELIZABETHTOWN — Farmers markets and local retailers are participating in a new Wellness Rx nutrition program led by The University of Vermont Health Network - Elizabethtown Community Hospital.

The program aims to increase access to nutrition education and affordable produce for patients with or at risk of chronic disease.

“Wellness Rx has been embraced by local farmers and store owners,” Amanda Whisher, program coordinator, said in a release.

“This truly is a community-wide effort to help patients focus on wellness.”

The UVM Health Network - Elizabethtown Community Hospital worked with the Essex County Public Health Department and the Well Fed Collaborative to launch the program in April.

Nearly 30 patients with food-related illnesses like diabetes are taking part in Wellness Rx. Primary care physicians and nutritionists “prescribe” vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables.

The vouchers can be redeemed at farm stands and retailers for produce valuing $5 to $10.

Local farmers, like Bryan Briscoe of Bucksberry Farm, are enthusiastic about the program.

"We are happy to be a part of Wellness Rx and support the health of our community,” Briscoe said.

All farmers markets in Essex County and many in Clinton County are now accepting program vouchers.

The Keeseville “farmacy” has seen a steady increase in participants.

Jaimee Finnegan, the pharmacy sales manager who oversees the purchase of fresh, seasonal produce for the farmacy, says she hopes to see the program continue to grow and positively impact the community.

"On a recent tour of the farmacy, I saw a new participant’s eyes light up when he realized he could take home his favorite fruit free of charge,” Finnegan said.

The Village Meat Market in Willsboro and Pray’s Family Farms in Plattsburgh and Keeseville also accept Wellness Rx vouchers.

For more information please visit UVMHealth.org/ECH or call (518) 873-3125.