Breaking Down Barriers to Fresh Food

For the past couple of years, the Community Foodshare program has given Farmer Foodshare the opportunity to work collaboratively with a network of local organizations to provide fresh, North Carolina-grown produce, nutrition tips, and recipes to community members. 

In the process, it has opened doors to those who otherwise couldn’t access fresh food. 

The process is simple: individuals have the option of purchasing a “share” for themselves, or they can sponsor a family in need. All summer and fall, participants then pick up weekly fresh food bundles at a participating site, which in 2018 was located at Reality Ministries in Durham. 

Enter Ileana Vink, a DukeWELL dietitian. 

Ileana Vink, RD, MPH

Ileana Vink, RD, MPH

Ileana works with Medicaid patients through Northern Piedmont Community Care. She provides medical nutrition therapy to patients in their homes, communities, and medical 

provider's offices, based on referrals from primary care providers and Medicaid data. She also connects her patients with local food and nutrition resources. 

Ileana became familiar with Farmer Foodshare through Julian Xie, who leads Root Causes, a student group at Duke Medical School that coordinates the Duke Outpatient Fresh Produce Program 

Root Causes incorporates fruits and vegetables donated through Farmer Foodshare’s Donation Station at the Durham Farmers Market into its offerings for food insecure patients. 

"Many of my patients grew up on farms and were used to cooking and eating fresh food,” Ileana said. “But cost, transportation, and a host of other issues have become major barriers for many of them." 

Ileana partnered with Farmer Foodshare to make the donated shares available to her patients, enabling them to consistently access fresh food and nutrition resources all season long. 

"Breaking down these barriers is huge,” she explained. “If you don’t have access to fresh food, you don’t have your health.” 

Mildred, a Community Foodshare participant

Mildred, a Community Foodshare participant

Mildred, one of Ileana’s patients, believes that the weekly recipes have helped her get back into the kitchen and become more creative. 

“As for the fruit,” Mildred said, smiling softly, “I ate a bushel of peaches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner one week. They were so delicious.” 

Produce is often an expensive item in the grocery store, so it has been a welcome addition to the participants’ weekly meals. 

“The fruit they’re receiving is so beautiful and fresh, and it is an important component to my patients’ diets,” Ileana shared. “My patients can now replace ice cream with blackberries! One did and has lost a lot of weight.” 

Another patient told Ileana that she’d never had such fresh, delicious lettuce before, and she was excited to share it with her young grandchildren and expose them to a new healthy food. 

Farmer Foodshare will continue Community Foodshare in 2019 and hopes to continue working with DukeWELL patients. “When you make one change, other changes begin to happen,” Ileana explained. 

“Community Foodshare has given my patients important tools that they need to change their diet and in turn, their health." 

Farmer Foodshare’s Community Foodshare program is growing. The initiative has received three years of USDA NIFA funding to expand to additional communities. It will operate in partnership with three organizations beginning this summer: Reality Ministries and Communities in Partnership in Durham, and Transplanting Traditions Community Farm in Carrboro. Contact Whitney Sewell at for details on how to participate in a program near you. Together, we can create a community around fresh food. 

Your support created a successful program that will serve as a model for others. Thank you for enabling Community Foodshare to reach more people in need.