The power of produce

Last Modified: 5/07/2022

veggie rx

Prescription Produce programs are crucial in helping at-risk populations consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Parkview has committed to furthering this objective by addressing and breaking down barriers for individuals and families to access healthy food. One way to do this is through the Veggie Rx to HEAL program. Michelle A. Bojrab-Wray, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, lead community outreach dietician, Parkview Health, and Mackenzie Hayward, healthcare administrative intern, Parkview Health, shared the details of this pioneering program and the many benefits it brings to the community.

What is the Veggie Rx program?

Veggie Rx to HEAL is a fruit and vegetable prescription program aimed at reducing the prevalence of food insecurity and chronic health conditions in Allen County. The program will provide greater food access, nutrition security, and education for low-income and at-risk communities.

How does the program work?

Veggie Rx is funded through a USDA grant and executed through Parkview’s Community Health Improvement team. It offers eligible patients in Allen County $50 in produce vouchers per month for six months. Produce vouchers are redeemable at HEAL Farm Markets and other select locations throughout the city. 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. 

How does this program help the community?

Veggie Rx allows healthcare providers to literally prescribe fresh produce and dispense a tangible, healthy food incentive to health-marginalized patients. This program has tremendous results, including improved blood pressure and healthy behavior changes. More importantly, we’re making nutritious food available to more people, which positively impacts the health and well-being of our entire community.

How can someone participate in the Veggie Rx program?

Interested individuals must have a referral from a healthcare provider to be eligible and participate in the program. Providers will screen for food insecurity and refer individuals with qualifying conditions such as prediabetes, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension or an at-risk pregnancy. To receive their fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers, program participants must attend a certain number of education classes and phone or virtual consults led by a registered dietitian over their six-month active program enrollment.  

What does the future hold for this program?

Veggie Rx began in 2019 as a pilot project and served 30 individuals. It continued in the summer of 2021 and expanded to serve 122 individuals with an 89% retention rate. Past participants reported improvements in blood pressure, general health, fruit and vegetable consumption, quality of eating habits, food choices, and increased comfort in cooking and using fresh produce. Over the next three years, this program is projected to offer these same benefits to 850 individuals in Allen County. Parkview and its partners truly believe this program can help reboot a culture of health while jumpstarting a dialogue for linking patients to a wide range of community resources for healthier living. 

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