This article will take you on a journey to discover what produce prescription is and why it could become the new “drug” doctors prescribe.
- What is it? It is a program to improve the overall health of a participant through a medically-prescribed diet.
- Who is eligible? Participants that have documented challenges accessing healthy food and/or they have a diet-related health risk such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
- Who runs the programs? Typically a non-profit partnering with a healthcare organization
- What is the goal? Produce Prescription Programs are designed to treat food as medicine.
A program participant will go through an initial eligibility screening. The health professional will identify their food-related health risk. The participant’s diet is repeatedly supplemented with healthy food and nutrition and cooking education and medical data is collected throughout the program and finally evaluated to determine the success of the program.
How do you define success?
When test results show biometric improvement related to their individual health risk that was determined at the beginning of the program.
See the problem?
- Diagram 1: Inadequate distribution to the Southeast with only 9 out of the 108 programs in the US
- Diagram 2: Shows a high vulnerability for food-related health risks in Arkansas and no food prescription program present
Produce prescription programs are incredibly beneficial medically to individuals in high health risk communities and financially to the local produce growers. It has been done in different ways with varying barriers and results. Unfortunately, location-based programs or programs that require a participant to redeem a voucher at a market are often inaccessible to a low-income community with limited transportation and child care assistance.
We believe the best program is mobile and connected. Take another look at diagram 2 above. Well Fed has already finalized a partnership with a local healthcare organization to create the FIRST on-site produce prescription program in Arkansas!
It is a sad fact that many rural communities do not have grocery stores with a sufficient produce aisle (Dollar Generals don’t count) and many individuals cannot maintain healthy diets. With a partnership with a local healthcare organization, we hope to empower participants to transform their diets and see measurable positive results!
We will simultaneously create valuable data for our Arkansan medical system to tangibly view the positive impact a produce prescription program has on their patients. Ultimately, we want to see as many produce prescription programs in Arkansas as there are in New England or the Midwest!