Millions of young Americans – thousands here in tiny Rhode Island – are already at risk for "adult-onset" diabetes and other diet-related diseases.
According to RI Kids Count, nearly one in six (16.5%) Rhode Island children entering kindergarten during the 2009-2010 school year was obese, and 16.9% of Rhode Island children live in households with income below the poverty line. According to the RI Department of Health, low-income populations in Rhode Island have roughly twice the diabetes prevalence of wealthy populations.
Tens of billions of
healthcare dollars go to prescription pills for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol.
What if just a sliver of those dollars were shifted from treatment to prevention, through increased affordability and access to healthy foods? Especially for those most at-risk of diet-related diseases? It seems money-saving and life-saving. But to convince the decisionmakers, the "good food movement" needs better clinical data connecting fresh food intake with positive health outcomes.
That's where Fruit & Vegetable Prescriptions come in.
Fruit & Vegetable Prescriptions for fresh produce from farmers markets are given to those most at-risk for diet-related diseases. The goal is to improve the health of community members by giving them the resources to afford to eat more fresh, locally grown produce. That's why, as an organization committed to a better food system, Farm Fresh RI was eager to be one of country's first Fruit & Vegetable Prescriptions sites.
The Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program expands upon Farm Fresh's Healthy Foods, Healthy Families model of combining education, accessibility and financial incentives to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for underserved families. At markets with the Prescription program, the Healthy Foods, Healthy Families acts as an additional healthy food resources available on-site at the market for families.
The Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program expands upon Thundermist's existing suite of health services for low-income residents in the Woonsocket area. The Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program will tie in closely with their clinic targeting new mothers whose children are disproportionately at-risk to develop diet-related diseases.
Initially launched by Wholesome Wave and CAVU as a small pilot program in our neighbor state of Massachusetts in 2010, the program served 246 participants in 2010. Preliminary results indicate that the program has a significant effect on participants' shopping and eating habits, as well as on their knowledge about the importance of fruits and vegetables in their diet.
How It Works
The team of professionals at Thundermist will provide nutritional counseling and "prescriptions" for fresh fruits and vegetables at monthly clinical sessions, in the form of vouchers. Enrolled individuals will redeem their vouchers for tokens that pay directly for fruits and veggies at the farmers market. The vouchers are designed to increase consumption by one serving per household-member per day.
Questions? Email Kayla.
Fruit & Vegetable Prescriptions will expand upon Farm Fresh Rhode Island's current nutrition education outreach. This program will improve the health of Rhode Island's low-income families and decrease the prevalence of obesity by:
- Clinically demonstrating the connection between increased fresh food access and positive health outcomes
- Increasing knowledge of nutrition for parents and for their children
- Offering parents and caregivers the tools necessary to make healthier choices while shopping for food
- Raising awareness of Farmers' Markets in these communities as a place to purchase affordable, high quality fruits and vegetables
- Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
Since its inception in 2004, Farm Fresh Rhode Island has worked to achieve these four goals by managing farmers' markets in low-income and/or food insecure areas, accepting Food Stamp / SNAP benefits and WIC Farmers Market coupons at these markets, and partnering with state agencies and area universities to offer healthy cooking demonstrations at the markets
EvaluationThroughout the market season, Farm Fresh will be diligently collecting data to measure how many of the produce prescriptions are redeemed and by whom. This data will then be used in conjunction with Thundermist data on changes in fruit and vegetable consumption, Body Mass Index (BMI), and other health indicators to evaluate if increased access to fruits and vegetables for individuals enrolled in the program has positive outcomes on their health.