FORT WAYNE, IND. – APRIL 26, 2022 – A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help Parkview Health expand Veggie Rx to HEAL, a program aimed at reducing the prevalence of food insecurity and chronic health conditions in Allen County.
The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the $466,373 grant through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, which supports greater food access and nutrition security for low-income and at-risk communities.
Parkview’s Veggie Rx to HEAL program provides fresh produce and nutrition education to adults who are identified as at-risk for food insecurity and chronic health conditions, with a focus on serving low-income residents in Allen County. Qualifying conditions include prediabetes, diabetes, cardiac diseases or at-risk pregnancy.
Veggie Rx participants receive $50 in produce vouchers each month for the duration of the program.Vouchers can be redeemed at HEAL Farm Markets and other select farm markets around the city, with future plans to add local grocery stores as well. Registered dietitians also lead classes and consultations, helping Veggie Rx participants increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables, change their nutritional habits and make the most of their monthly produce vouchers.
“Veggie Rx allows healthcare providers to literally prescribe fresh produce and dispense a tangible, healthy food incentive to their health-marginalized patients,” said Michelle Bojrab-Wray, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, lead community outreach dietitian, Parkview Health. “We have seen tremendous results from this program, including improved blood pressure and healthy behavior changes. More importantly, we’re making nutritious food available to more people, which creates a positive impact on the health and well-being of our entire community.”
The Veggie Rx program has already grown from serving 30 people in the 2019 pilot to serving 121 people in 2021. The USDA grant will allow Veggie Rx to expand even further, serving 850 people over the next three years, starting with a goal of enrolling 250 people in 2022. The program will also extend from three months to six months, with the next session starting in May.
Participants are identified for the program through area healthcare providers. Anyone who believes they qualify should contact their provider to ask about a potential referral.
This work is supported by a Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, Produce Prescription grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.