Over 3.7 billion prescriptions are filled annually at US pharmacies. Not included in this number are fresh produce prescriptions. Yes, doctors are prescribing fresh produce.
Last week, New York City officials debuted a fresh produce prescription program at two city hospitals, Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital. The goal of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) is to help battle obesity and encourage at-risk populations to eat additional servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The produce prescription comes in the form of a subsidy. A doctor provides each participating family member with a daily $1 subsidy that can be redeemed for fresh fruit and vegetables at participating farmers markets.
According to NY Health Commissioner, Thomas Farley, the prescription program is “probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term than the medicines we tend to write prescriptions for.”
The Department of Agriculture is also exploring healthy eating programs. The Department recently published the results of a study where they used financial incentives to encourage food stamp recipients to eat healthy. The study found that “people on food stamps who received such incentives ate 25 percent more produce than [those] who did not.”
As with other health and wellness trends, prescribing produce will go mobile. Though the concept is still relatively new, the days of handing out $1 food prescriptions are already numbered. Be on the lookout for the emergence of mobile wellness apps to manage the process of prescribing healthy eating.