An Ounce of Prevention

When Dr. Jeremy Wiseman tells his primary-care patients at Wiseman Family Practice that they should know where their food comes from, it isn’t just lip service. In fact, instead of going to the grocery store to purchase grassfed beef, Wiseman picks out several head of cattle from a patient’s ranch near Lampasas each year, transports them to a small, family-run meat-processing facility and then personally oversees their slaughter to make sure it’s done humanely.

And instead of doling out prescriptions, Wiseman says his clinic— which takes an integrative approach to medicine and combines the best of both alternative and conventional treatments—is more interested in prevention and education. “We are trying to change the primary care system,” he says. “We are trying to get people educated and have them understand that a large part of maintaining your health has to do with these proper food decisions, understanding where food comes from and how it’s grown.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that Wiseman Family Practice recently partnered with Urban Roots—a nonprofit youth-development organization that provides paid internships to area teens who spend 25 weeks learning how to grow sustainably raised fruits and vegetables on a three-and-a-half acre farm in East Austin. Urban Roots produces about 30,000 pounds of produce each year—40 percent of which is donated to area food pantries and soup kitchens, and the rest sold at farmers markets, through the Urban Roots community supported agriculture (CSA) program and wholesale. “[Wiseman] reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, how can we support you?’” says Urban Roots executive director Max Elliott. “‘Your mission is really in line with what we are doing in creating a healthier Austin community.’”

As a result, Wiseman Family Practice now offers Urban Roots staff members free medical care at their Cedar Park-based clinic, and plans to offer free physical exams to the interns on-site at the farm for the 2014 program. “Some of the youth don’t have great access to transportation or there could be a cost associated with getting a physical, so that could be difficult for some families with limited means,” Elliott says.

In addition, last spring Wiseman Family Practice spent more than $2,000 buying 15 seats (or a table and a half ) at the annual Urban Roots fund-raiser Tour de Farm, which featured an intern-led tour of Urban Roots and a meal prepared by chefs using the farm’s produce. “It was a big sponsorship,” Elliott says. “They really wanted their staff to understand that this is this great organization they are excited about.”

Indeed, Wiseman says not only does Urban Roots provide the Austin area with the kind of real food his practice advocates, it also gives youth a solid understanding of where their food comes from—something he feels everyone should know as a foundation for good health. “The cornerstone of what a primary-care doctor should be doing is prevention,” Wiseman says. “And the cornerstone of that, of course, is eating clean food.” —Nicole Lessin

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