Community and Public Health Nutrition
Objectives: Farmers’ market incentive programs have demonstrated success in improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables. More recently, health care providers have introduced fruit and vegetable prescriptions that are written by providers in exchange for fresh produce. The objective of the current study was to examine the association between participation in a fruit and vegetable prescription program for pediatric patients and farmers’ market shopping.
Methods: In September 2015, Hurley Children’s Center (HCC), a pediatric training clinic located in Flint, Michigan, relocated to the downtown farmers’ market. In addition to becoming the first urban pediatric clinic to co-locate with a farmers’ market, HCC implemented a fruit and vegetable prescription program. This program included a $10 prescription for fresh fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at the farmers’ market. Researchers completed a cross-sectional study with 157 caregivers of HCC patients to assess the association between participation in the prescription program and farmers’ market shopping.
Results: The majority of survey respondents were female (93%) and between the ages of 25 and 34 years (58%). Approximately 65% of respondents reported that their child had received a prescription, indicating participation in the prescription program. Participants were more likely than non-participants to receive benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (p< 0.001). Additionally, caregivers who reported that their child had received a prescription were significantly more likely to shop at the farmers’ market when compared to caregivers who reported not receiving a prescription (p=0.03). Differences in food security scores between participants (1.89 ± 2.06) and those who did not participate (1.83 ± 1.96) were not significant (p=0.85).
Conclusions: Caregivers whose children received a fruit and vegetable prescription from their pediatrician were significantly more likely to shop at the farmers’ market than those who did not receive a prescription. This finding suggests that fruit and vegetable prescription programs targeting underserved children may are be effective in improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables.