Fruits and Vegetables Are Now Drugs (the Good Kind)

Staff Writer
New York City’s new Fruit and Vegetable Program has doctors prescribing fresh produce to at-risk patients

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Now, the "apple a day" that keeps the doctor away will be coming from the doctor in the first place.

Is that apple over-the-counter?

You may think it’s a silly question, but we think it’s a groundbreaking idea. A new initiative in New York City called the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program now has doctors prescribing fruits and vegetables as wholesome ‘drugs’ to patients who are obese or overweight. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley announced the program yesterday at Lincoln Medical Center’s farmers’ market.

Under the pilot program, a doctor and nutritionist assess a low-income patient’s health and diet to determine whether he or she is at risk for obesity. If so, the doctor can prescribe Health Bucks, which can buy fresh produce at local farmers markets. This year, there will be more than $560,000 Health Bucks available for fruits and vegetables.

Wholesome Wave launched a test run of the program in 2010 and it has been steadily expanding ever since. In 2012, there were 12 sites across seven states, and the results were promising. Notably, 37.8 percent of youth participants decreased their BMI.

To date, Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital Center are participating in the program.

“Each dollar invested in Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program nourishes public hospital patients and their families, boosts revenue at farmers markets, and supports overall community health,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs.

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And suddenly, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” takes on a whole new meaning.