New York City Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced this week that New York will launch a new chapter of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or FVRx, a program that allows doctors to "prescribe" fruits and vegetables to families at risk for obesity and diet-related illness. Patients can receive a dollar per day for each member of their family—a family of four could receive $28 per week—to redeem at New York City farmer's markets. Each month, patients meet with their doctors for prescription renewal and to have their weight and BMI measured. Hospitals will try to retain participants for at least 4 months.
FVRx is a program run by Wholesome Wave, a Bridgeport-based organization working on hunger and food issues across the northeast. Wholesome Wave launched their pilot FVRx programs in 2011 in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Rhode Island. The program was then expanded to Connecticut, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington, D.C. in 2012.
Wholesome Wave's 2012 FVRx impact report shows many positive results from the program. According to their data, 55% of participants in FVRx reported increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and almost 40% of child participants reduced their BMI. A large majority of participants in FVRx are from low-income families and have limited access to healthy food. Wholesome Wave touts the ability of the FVRx program to empower these families to seek out healthier food options.
Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital Center are the first two medical centers to launch the program; each aims to enroll up to 70 patients in the FVRx program. FVRx is a next step in ongoing efforts by GrowNYC, the NYC Department of Health, and the mayor's office to increase access to local and healthy food to New York's low income residents.