Janet Lopez, a mother of two, said her eating habits are pretty typical in her neighborhood.
She said that’s because produce is expensive.
“I didn’t eat vegetables nor fruits. If I did, it was once every month or so,” said Lopez. “It’s difficult because I make a little bit of money at work, so I depend on my mom at times.”
But over the last two months, that’s started to change. Her doctor is now demanding that Janet and her kids eat better so she now gets a weekly prescription for fruits and vegetables from the local farmers market.
“I get strawberries, apples, berries, oranges, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes,” she said.
It’s all part of the fruit and vegetable prescription program, a joint project between Unity Health Care and community non-profits that gives 35 families a prescription that is honored at farmer’s markets throughout the city. The subsidy varies, depending on family size, but can be as much as $60 per week.
“Considering the economy, it’s a lot and it helps them very much,” said Mirna Valdez, Unity Health Care.
Valdez said getting a prescription helps patients realize the significance of a healthy diet.
“It makes them think that medicine is important for health, but also the vegetables,” said Valdez. “The doctor is prescribing an amount of vegetables and an amount of fruits that you have to have in your life”
The program also introduces patients to farmers markets.
Lauren Biel is one of the program’s community partners.
“What we found was that the patients who were coming, many of them didn’t even realize that the markets were there,” said Laurel Biel with DC Greens in the Washington, D.C. area.
Lopez said she’s starting to feel the impact of eating more fruits and veggies.
“Now I have more energy and I’m doing something that’s healthier for me and I’m healthier because I’m eating stuff that I need,” she said.
The hope is that the program can expand to farmers markets in other cities and serve even more patients.
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