Low-income patients receive free produce.
Award-winning program made possible by Target & national non-profit Wholesome Wave.
(July 18, 2017 – Los Angeles, CA) Doctors prescribing fruits and vegetables? Yes.
Thanks to additional funding from Target and a partnership with the national non-profit Wholesome Wave, Eisner Health will be participating in the Fruits and Vegetables Prescription Program (“FVRx”) for its second consecutive year, with a new round of patients who will begin taking daily fruits and vegetables—doctor’s orders.
Wholesome Wave, a ten-year-old organization that helps people in poverty afford healthy produce, has run so-called “produce prescription” programs from New York City to Navajo Nation. Target began funding Wholesome Wave’s work last year, specifically underwriting a produce-prescription program at Eisner Health, a nonprofit clinic in a low-income Los Angeles community. Doctors and patients saw such positive experiences that the partnership was honored by the US Chamber of Commerce and by Fast Company as a world-changing idea. Target is expanding funding to $1.5M this year, and rolling out the prescriptions in Los Angeles, Houston and Miami this month.
The concept is innovative—but it’s also incredibly simple. Everyone knows that daily consumption of fruits and vegetables is essential to good health, but tens of millions of Americans in poverty rely on cheaper options, and over time, the public health results have proven catastrophic. Epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes disproportionately afflict low-income populations, and the national cost of diet-related health care is topping a trillion dollars a year. Doctors can advise eating more fruits and vegetables, but if patients can’t afford them, they can’t buy them, which is where produce prescriptions come in.
Participating doctors identify patients to enroll in the program—focusing on pediatric patients at risk of diet-related disease and food insecurity. Once enrolled in the free program, patients meet with a doctor or case manager to set healthy eating goals and receive vouchers for free fruits and vegetables. During the course of the six-month program, they’ll receive money to buy daily fruits and vegetables for their entire household; a family of 4 will receive about $1,000 in the vouchers between now and January. Patients can redeem the vouchers for any fruits and vegetables of their choice, at no cost, at any Target, or at participating farmers markets.
The outcomes are real. Historically, over half of FVRx participants decreased their BMI. In the Los Angeles program last year, 57% of patients’ families at Eisner Health reported an improvement in their children’s health due to the program. Dr. Yolanda Rebollo, an Eisner Health pediatrician who prescribed produce to her patients through the program, says, “When I can offer a family a script for produce, it makes such a difference. The response that we had was phenomenal. It’s something that people really love. It’s going to go a long way to cutting costs for the family and for our healthcare system.”
Now over a thousand new patients and their families will have the same opportunity. And doctors can’t wait to fill out prescription pads for things like carrots and cilantro. “Having access to the necessary resources through the support of our partners, Wholesome Wave and Target, has allowed for a tremendous positive impact in our patient population,” says Chona de Leon, interim CEO, Eisner Health. “We are so proud to be part of such an important program which offers real results for our families which are most in need of this help.”
Michel Nischan, CEO of Wholesome Wave and father of two diabetic children, agrees. “This partnership works, and we’re thrilled to bring it back to families in need in Los Angeles, and expand it to Houston and Miami. No child should ever say ‘I don’t eat fruits and vegetables—because my parents can’t afford them.’”
About Eisner Health
Founded in 1920, Eisner Health is a quality-focused, federally qualified non-profit and integrated community health center system dedicated to improving the physical, social and emotional well-being of people in the communities we serve, regardless of income, immigration status and insurance coverage. It has been a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) system since late 2004 and is one of the largest providers of accessible, free, or low-cost health and social services including comprehensive and high-quality medical, dental, nurse midwifery, and OB/GYN services, optometry, prenatal education, pharmacy and behavioral health care, as well as case management and referral services.
About Wholesome Wave
Wholesome Wave is a national nonprofit making fruits and vegetables affordable for the people who need them most. When people can afford produce, they buy it. And when the millions of Americans struggling with poverty eat more fruits and vegetables, we see immediate improvements for families and farmers—and enormous long-term gains for public health, local economies, and the environment. Wholesome Wave’s innovative initiatives reach half a million under-served consumers, as well as over 8,000 farmers annually, in 48 states and counting.