Through this program, a doctor really can 'prescribe' an apple a day

Dive Brief:

  • A partnership between Willy Street Co-op North and UW Health Northeast Family Medical will allow doctors to prescribe organic fruits and vegetables to their patients, according to Progressive Grocer.
  • The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program is being run in Madison, WI, and was financed with $23,000  from Wholesome Wave, a national group dedicated to providing access to healthy food to underserved communities. 
  • To qualify for aid, patients must answer “yes” to one of two questions: “In the last year, have you worried about having enough food until you could buy more?” or “Have you actually run out of food before you could buy more?” Patients are then given a packet that includes 60 $2 coupons that can be used in the co-op's produce department through the end of the year.

Dive Insight:

The pilot Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program is interesting in that it was designed not only to help consumers eat healthier, but to improve the membership of the co-op. Madison's local government is making a concerted effort to increase the health of its residents and bolster a valuable community asset at the same time.

Wholesome Wave has funded similar programs in New York and Los Angeles, with doctors prescribing fruits and vegetables for obese patients. The Wisconsin program is casting a wider net, as many people are looking to eat healthier but feel that they can't afford it. 

Many nutritionists have long argued for the medicinal benefits of different types of produce, including things such as cherries helping the immune system, strawberries improving cardiac health and papaya being beneficial for skin conditions.

The key to the program’s success relies on prevention as opposed to treating a disease. At a time when consumers desire to get healthier, initiatives like these may grow, especially as consumers embrace the "food as medicine" trend. 

Many grocery stores already have registered dieticians on staff to answer shopper questions and encourage healthy lifestyle choices through in-store cooking classes and recipe development. Taking this trend one step further could be an opportunity for grocery retailers to make a name for themselves as health leaders and edge out competition. 

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Filed Under: Grocery
Top image credit: PublicDomainPictures