Delicious Medicine: UConn Extension and Danbury’s Food Farmacy

UConn Extension nutrition experts are helping hundreds of shoppers use food as medicine and learn about healthy cooking

A colorful and healthy assortment of fruits and vegetables arranged in the shape of a heart

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A bright, open space with neatly stacked shelves greets residents walking through the doors of the Food Farmacy in Danbury. One of several “food as medicine” initiatives in Connecticut, the Food Farmacy opened its doors in October 2023 and is the first of its kind to be embedded in the community.

CAHNR 10th Anniversary of Health badgeProfessionals from UConn Extension’s community nutrition program are key partners in the Food Farmacy and offer educational programming on healthy cooking and nutrition.

The Food Farmacy is the result of a $1,050,000 grant that Nuvance Health, the Connecticut Institute of Communities (CIFC), the Community Action Agency of Western CT, and UConn Extension received through the US Congress. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy supported the project.

“We have strong community partnerships; and have worked with worked with United Way on projects in the past,” says Heather Peracchio, an assistant extension educator based in the Fairfield County Extension Center. “I am honored to be part of the team that is improving health outcomes and food security. Nuvance offers the clinical side. The Connecticut Institute for Communities (CIFC) priority is offering the space, and the downtown location is really beneficial for clients.”

Sunamita Lang ’21 (CAHNR) worked with Peracchio during the spring 2024 semester as part of her dietetic internship while in a master of science in nutrition program at the University of Saint Joseph. Lang, who is originally from Bridgeport and worked with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in the past, partnered with Peracchio to develop and teach nutrition education courses at the Food Farmacy.

Peracchio and Lang at Ag Day in Hartford share their program with the community. (Contributed photo)

There are over 110 regular shoppers, all of whom were prescribed healthy foods at the Farmacy by their medical team because of hypertension challenges.

Peracchio and Lang create a class on a different topic each month for the Food Farmacy shoppers from January through June. Clients can attend any and all classes; a core group has attended every month and some have even brought family members with them. Classes are tailored to the participants’ needs and interests. The Food Farmacy also has a dietitian and social worker on site to assist shoppers.

In June, the UConn Extension team transitions to seasonal foods and has 30 programs scheduled in and around Danbury through November. Food Farmacy shoppers will receive information on these classes as well.

“This was a whole new group of people who may never have taken a nutrition or cooking class,” Juliana Restrepo-Marin, an educational program assistant with UConn Extension, said of the Food Farmacy participants. “We focused first on basic, foundational skills, holding a knife and cutting skills. The workshop content is also about food security and food safety.”

Class participants taste monthly recipes created by Lang that they made each month in class. They can take ingredients home to make the meals on their own, providing them extra groceries for the month.

“I’m able to see how beneficial it is for them to connect everything full circle, from what their doctor says to the nutrition information, and put it into practice in a class,” Lang says. “We allow class participants a space to learn, and they determine things like how they can make a nutritious meal with the ingredients they have. It’s rewarding hearing people apply what they are learning and that resonates with me.”

Although there is a curriculum and recipe for each class, Peracchio, Restrepo-Marin, and Lang also pivot as needed for their clientele.

One week, the class spent time discussing using SNAP benefits at the farmers’ market, as not all participants understood that it was an option. Lang also worked with teen mothers at Danbury High School through her internship with UConn Extension. She taught in English and Spanish, helping participants understand how to maximize their WIC and SNAP benefits, and the importance of certain nutrients like iron in their diets.

The Food Farmacy classes in Danbury are just one of a suite of classes and resources that UConn Extension’s community nutrition programs offer statewide. The bilingual programs in English and Spanish are offered throughout the state, and UConn Extension works with community partners, in a similar structure to the Food Farmacy, to meet clients where they are.

“There’s an affinity for bridging a gap between the struggles people face and helping others in the same way. I want people to know that they have access to a lot of resources,” says Lang.


This work relates to CAHNR’s Strategic Vision area focused on Enhancing Health and Well-Being Locally, Nationally, and Globally.


UConn Extension is part of the nationwide Cooperative Extension System that connects the public with the research and resources of land-grant universities. UConn Extension is comprised of faculty and staff with Extension appointments across the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.

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