Wholesome Wave is a non-profit organization with a vision of making local and healthy foods affordable and accessible to all, and is particularly focused on underserved communities. In 2010, they piloted the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program ® (also known as FVRx ®), and since then have launched 18 programs[i]. In this innovative program, medical providers give enrolled patients prescriptions for fruits and vegetables to use at participating farmers’ markets. The FVRx program gets at two important root issues: access and affordability. For example, advising patients to eat healthier may not do much good for patients who cannot afford or access these types of foods. The FVRx program allows doctors and health care workers to provide patients and their families with tangible resources and actionable steps to improve their health. The FVRx program is financially supported by community organizations and foundations, local and state governments, and the USDA.[ii] [iii] [iv]
The specific objectives of the FVRx program are to[v]:
- Educate participants and their families of the importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet
- Increase access to and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among participants and their families
- Improve health-related outcomes of participants by decreasing Body Mass Index (BMI) and improving nutrition
- Facilitate measureable change in shopping behaviors and foster the adoption of healthy lifestyles
- Drive new sales for local farmers markets and increase the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Deepen the patient-provider relationship, improve satisfaction and engagement
- Develop public-private partnerships to increase access to healthy food and improve community health, development, and involvement
The partnership between medical providers, patients, and local farmers’ markets is what makes this program unique. The first step is being referred and enrolled into a program by a participating health care provider. Participants then meet with clinicians to set goals, learn about nutrition, receive their FVRx prescription ($1 per day, per family member), and have data collected on health indicators (e.g. BMI, fruit and vegetable consumption). Participants can then take their prescriptions to participating farmers markets to redeem for fruits and vegetables. Prescription redemption is tracked by the retailer, and provided back to the program. Participants make monthly visits to their health care provider to refill their prescriptions, and re-start the cycle.
The 2014 results from the FVRx program in New York City found that 42% of patients decreased their BMI, 58% reported increased knowledge of nutrition, and that 84% of prescriptions had been redeemed[vi]. The results also suggest that the program decreased food insecurity of participants, and increased use of farmers markets to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
The findings from the NYC program align with other reported 2014 program outcomes, with 69% of patients increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, 47% decreasing BMI, and 45% reporting increased food security[vii].
These results demonstrate the positive impacts that can come from linking health care providers with food retailers, and empowering people with the knowledge and ability to make healthy food choices for themselves and their families.
Photo Source: Wholesome Wave, Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program ®
Rebecca Mack, Cornell University
[v] Wholesome Wave 2014 Report