Prescribing fruits and vegetables has become a surprising new perspective on the traditional approach to medicine—pills. With the obesity epidemic on the rise, it is inevitable that now is the time for new solutions.
An innovative non-profit organization called Wholesome Wave has created the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or for short, FVRx.
Rather than leaning on western medicine and supplements to combat weight issues, doctors now urge patients to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables—as prescribed. The program is currently underway at two New York Public hospitals—Harlem Hospital in Manhattan and Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. Through a two year 500,000 grant from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the hospitals were able to test the program on 550 children and their families. Later expanding to the Elmhurst hospital in Queens and Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, which offered the program to 650 more qualified participants.
The FVRx program includes Nutrition Education, healthy recipes, and something called ‘Health Bucks’. Participants who qualify for the program get tokens. New York and Boston residents get Health Bucks instead, similar to Food Stamps, but are only redeemable for produce at local farmer’s markets.
Results have proven the program to be effective. After four months 40% of participating children lowered their B.M.I’s (fat composition in their body) and 90% of families had shopped at farmers markets weekly, or several times a month.
A 10-year-old girl, Alaijah who was significantly overweight lost 5 pounds in the first year of the program and 8 more pounds the second year just by snacking on fruits and vegetables. Her mother comments, “now Alaijah carries fruits or cut-up vegetables to school. She likes raw carrots, celery and broccoli.”
This success story is not a stand-alone. Further results show that 97% of children and 96% of their families now ate more fruits and vegetables after being part of the FVRx.
This program touches on two very important factors: food availability and food sustainability. Not only does it provide fresh produce to poor areas—known as food deserts—but it also supports farmers and locally grown foods. The increase in purchases at farmer’s markets has resulted in a 37% increase in the average income for farmers. This has helped to increase their farmland in production and to invest more in farm operations.
Most importantly, implementing FVRx has provided an opportunity for children to interact with the farmers and ask questions, learning about how things are grown and what is in season.