Overview of the Farmacy

The Farmacy Philly (Overbrook) Center for Human & Environmental Health is a center designed to provide deliberate upstream-health, nutrition and environmental-health related intervention strategies to underserved communities. The Farmacy Philly will encourage behavior changes that constructively address the underlying social, economic, and healthcare disparities in our target communities in zip codes 19131, 19139 and 19151.

The project was conceived by JASTECH Development Services, Inc., a 501 (c) (3), not-for-profit, PA corporation. In 1998, JASTECH was established with a mission to ensure a more livable, sustainable, and equitable Philadelphia community (JASTECH is an acronym for Juveniles Active in Science and Technology).

In 2002, JASTECH established the Overbrook Environmental Education Center (OEEC), a community-based center is dedicated to preserving our built and natural environments; improving public health; and promoting personal enrichment with literacy and art. The Overbrook Farmacy project was essentially an outcome of two of the OEEC’s previous projects: 1) Overbrook Environmental Education Center Community-Based Campaign: Social Marketing for Healthier Neighborhoods and 2) Prescription for Better Health project (PBH).

Social Marketing for Healthier Neighborhoods

The 2014, Social Marketing for Healthier Neighborhoods project was a one-year pilot EPA funded Environmental Justice grant designed to form a Community Advisory Board to participate in the campaign process; identify critical behavior targets regarding clean water and toxic substances control within in the Overbrook community; identify the community’s perceptions of barriers and benefits to the target behavior; implement a community-based, participatory campaign to change target behaviors, and build community capacity through meaningful involvement to address future environmental health issues.

The Prescription for Better Health project (PBH)

The PBH Project was guided by the idea that pathways to healthy foods and healthy behaviors are multi‐dimensional.  By this, we mean that access to healthy foods is not simply a function of geographic access, but rather a function of five distinct dimensions of food access: 1) spatiotemporal, 2) economic, 3) social, 4) service delivery, and 5) personal. This theory is based on food access studies of low‐income populations in the South (Freedman, Liese, Hatala, Lomax, & Blake, 2011).

PBH is modeled on the “Right Choice, Fresh Start (RCFS) Farmer’s Market Project”, that was piloted in 2010-12 in a collaboration between the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network and the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina. PBH embraced RCFS’s model but, adapted elements to meet the strengths and needs of our unique Overbrook/West Philadelphia community setting.

The Right Choice, Fresh Start Model

What made the RCFS model appealing is that it successfully increased consumption of healthy food among populations that suffered disproportionately from diet-related health conditions and also resulted in economic benefits and improved capacity in their target community. Also, RCFS researchers provided a user’s manual that clearly documents their process (Freedman & Alia, 2013), and was intended to be a replicable program from its inception. In 2015, Philadelphia’s – Community Design Collaborative (CDC) created conceptual design plans to house the “Overbrook Farmacy” in an existing, vacant structure at 6150 Lancaster Avenue on the OEEC’s campus at 6130-50 Lancaster Avenue. The name “Farmacy” is a play on words “pharmacy” and “farmer’s market” and is a wellness center where passive patient care, enviro-education and healthy food access comes together to educate and care for the community.

Philadelphia’s – Community Design Collaborative (CDC)

Assistance from the CDC included evaluating the existing building structure and making recommendations for reuse, creating a programming study of space needs, developing a conceptual plan for redeveloping the building, and providing a preliminary cost estimate. The design services provided by Collaborative volunteers resulted from information gathered during their site visit to the property plus, community task force and review meetings with some members of JASTECH. The task force (a spill-over from the EPA project) consisted of experts in healthcare, nutrition, farmers’ markets, commercial kitchens, sustainable design along with members of JASTECH’s Board of Directors, staff and local community members.

Ultimately, the CDC’s Overbrook Farmacy designs were derived from Section 330 Federally Qualified Health Care Center’s (FQHC) summary of key considerations and from the recommendations from task force meetings. The center’s plans includes required spaces for exam rooms, staff offices, and other requirements such as, providing a separate entrance to the wellness center and privacy issues based on HIPPA. Further, the center will include a public venue area that could be offered for educational sessions, rental, a farmer’s market, as well as a commercial kitchen that would demonstrate healthy cooking alternatives, sell fresh and nutritious retail and prepared to the community.