For many, an apple a day would keep away not only the doctor, but also obesity. However, nutritional guidance and access to fresh and healthy produce are not always available or affordable.
In New York City, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) is hoping to address this void by having doctors and healthcare providers prescribe produce to pregnant women and obese or overweight children at risk of developing diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. FVRx made its New York City debut on July 23 in Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital Center.
Through FVRx, participants receive a prescription for one serving of fruits or vegetables per day. The prescription is the equivalent of $1 per day in Health Bucks for each family member and can be redeemed weekly at area farmers’ markets throughout the four to six month program. These Health Bucks are paper vouchers that can be redeemed for produce at New York City markets.
To refill prescriptions, participants have a checkup with their healthcare provider who assesses fruit and vegetable consumption, measures weight and BMI, sets self-management goals and reinforces the importance of healthy eating.
In order to increase access to healthy foods for at-risk families and low-income New Yorkers, FVRx partnered with local nonprofit GrowNYC. More than 140 New York City farmers’ markets accept the prescription produce dollars.
FVRx started in 2011 in four states as a pilot program of Wholesome Wave with the goal of improving access and affordability of fresh, healthy, locally grown produce to underserved communities and to improve the health of the community as a whole.
By encouraging patients to seek out local produce, FVRx increases the likelihood of families visiting farmers markets and buying fresh, healthy and local foods, which in turn creates stronger, more connected communities.
These positive impacts also extend into the community’s health. According to Wholesome Wave’s 2012 program outcomes, 37.8% of children in the four month FVRx season decreased their BMI, and 55.3% reported an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. Requiring checkups to refill prescriptions also encourages repeated and sustained healthcare checkups.
If you’re interested in increasing access to fresh, local produce in your area, do some research with our starter map to evaluate your community’s needs.