Food by VICE

Doctors Can Now Prescribe Fruits and Vegetables to Patients

For the millions of Americans living in food deserts, plucking a peach off of a tree isn’t really an option.

by Nick Rose
Jul 7 2016, 10:00pm

Foto von Squash Valley Produce via Flickr

Fruits are good for you. Vegetables are good for you. Eat them five to nine times per day and you won't get sick. Ever.

OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the reality is that eating the Earth's bounty of vegetation is a key component to living a long, healthy life and minimizing the risk of obesity and diabetes. But for the millions of Americans living in food deserts, plucking a peach off of a tree isn't really an option. Neither, sadly, is the fruits and vegetables aisle of the grocery store.

Food deserts are the nutritionally arid chunks of urban land, void of produce and populated instead with cheap, sugary foods that make healthy eating nearly impossible. But now, thanks to a program known as FVRx, doctors across the US will be able to "prescribe" fruits and vegetables to patients in poor communities, who can then redeem produce—for free—at participating grocery stores.

READ MORE: Your Mental Health Suffers When You Don't Eat Enough Fruits and Vegetables

Target granted the program a total of $1.2 million, and is targeting food deserts in New York and Los Angeles, with an emphasis on preventing diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

"Helping Americans struggling with poverty is something the private sector needs to take on full-force," said Michel Nischan, the Founder and CEO of Wholesome Wave, the company behind FVRx. "There's no better way to express the spirit of our great country than through feeding those who are falling on hard times by helping consumers put fresh fruits and vegetables on the table."

And the stakes are pretty high. At Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center, an LA hospital participating in the program, more than 98 percent of patients are below 150 percent of the poverty level, approximately 82 percent of whom are Latino, and 34 percent of whom are under the age of 12.

Sure, there's a huge corporation financing and benefitting from this program, but even a corporate oasis is a welcome thing in the food deserts of America.

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