An unconventional prescription: Fruits and vegetables

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The next time you go to a doctor, the medication you are prescribed may not be exactly what you re expecting. New York has just launched the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program at two of its hospitals, Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital Center. Through this program, doctors can prescribe fruits and vegetables to high-risk, low-income patients.

Patients are prescribed health bucks each day which may be used at over 140 New York City farmers markets. Each month, patients return to the hospital to have measurements taken and to receive their prescription for that month. In addition, they are given nutritional counseling.

New York is now one of seven states participating in this program, which was launched in 2011 by Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide low-income people with access to local foods. Massachusetts, Maine, California and Rhode Island are also participating in this program.

Dr. Shefali Khanna, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Medical Center is very enthusiastic about the program. We re not only teaching them just about eating healthy. This is really an investment for the future. And we hope we have a whole generation of kids who benefit from this, and reaches adulthood at a healthy optimal weight.

ACSH s Ariel Savransky adds, It really does seem that this program has the potential to have a positive impact on the individuals enrolled. I m curious to see though, whether participants continue the healthy eating habits they learn after they are finished with the program.