Munson Medical Center – Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program

The goal of Munson Medical Center’s Fruit & Vegetable Prescription pilot program – funded by a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services grant – was to increase community/clinical linkages in addressing food access and chronic disease. An emphasis was placed on identifying patients with chronic diseases and partnering with local farmers markets located close to the referring clinic. Patients were encouraged to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables using their prescriptions after receiving nutritional counseling within the clinical setting. The program also offered specialized farmers market events/programs that addressed how healthy eating can impact chronic disease. Participants received up to $100 in vouchers to spend at a farmers market to purchase fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

Overview

The goal of Munson Medical Center’s Fruit & Vegetable Prescription pilot program – funded by a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services grant – was to increase community/clinical linkages in addressing food access and chronic disease. An emphasis was placed on identifying patients with chronic diseases and partnering with local farmers markets located close to the referring clinic. Patients were encouraged to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables using their prescriptions after receiving nutritional counseling within the clinical setting. The program also offered specialized farmers market events/programs that addressed how healthy eating can impact chronic disease. Participants received up to $100 in vouchers to spend at a farmers market to purchase fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

Impact

Ninety-nine percent of post-survey respondents reported they used their coupons for the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program; 60 percent reported visiting the market 4 to 7 times; 63 percent indicated they spent $81 to $100, with average dollar amount spent in the $61 to $80 range. Total coupons redeemed equaled $10,650.

Upon analyzing data from the pre/post program survey, CS Research Consulting & LLC found statistically significant reported changes as a result of the program:

  • Self-Reported Health – Post-survey respondents were significantly more likely to rate their own health as “very good” compared with “fair” at pre-survey.
  • Fruit & Vegetable Consumption – Post-survey respondents were significantly more likely to report eating more than one kind of fruit and vegetable each day, and more likely to report eating a greater quantity of fruit each day.
  • Self-Reported Motivation – Post-survey respondents were more likely to “strongly agree” they are motivated to eat fruits and vegetables daily.
  • 94.5 percent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement: “I will be able to continue to eat healthier because of what I learned in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program.”

The benefits of such a program are not limited to the participants. Vendors accepting the coupons saw an increase in revenue this season compared with last market season. During the final evaluation with the market vendors, a vendor commented that market attendance dropped when the program was not present at the market. The program helps strengthen the local food economy in the region, supporting local farmers who recognize the role of healthy food sources in chronic disease management.

Lessons Learned

“Prescription for Health,” on which Munson Medical Center Community Health modeled their Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, has recently developed a community checklist and program implementation guide to assist communities interested in offering their own fruit and vegetable prescription program. This resource can help to guide implementation and set up the basic framework of the program.

The model of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program is easily replicable at local farmers markets. By providing health education and cooking demonstrations, market visitors can learn how what they eat can impact overall health. It gives participating health care providers a tool to provide patients with the ability to check in, which creates overall health accountability.

The nutrition education was designed and implemented by a registered dietician who is also a trained chef. She selected produce for her demonstrations that was in season and readily available at the market or at a grocery store. She was flexible in her education, showcasing how other preferred fruits or vegetables could be substituted while still making it a balanced meal.

The selected farmers market was also small and less than one mile away from the provider office. The market was convenient and non-intimidating to participants who did not have experience or familiarity with a farmers market.

Innovative modifications, such as incorporating a food truck for mobile education or a trailer for a roaming farmers market, can decrease barriers and increase access to healthy foods in neighborhoods that would otherwise go without.

The program also offered safe food preservation techniques. These classes gave participants the opportunity to learn the techniques and thereby be able consume fruits and vegetables all year long. The program was taught by Crosshatch, a community partner, which was another way to connect the participants to other community resources regarding food and nutrition education.

Future Goals

In addition to the renewal of the state grant, Rotary Charities has provided a grant for the program to be expanded to Benzie County through a collaboration between Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital and the Grow Benzie Farmers Market. The Munson Medical Center program also has caught the attention of other areas of the state. Munson has been approached by several groups in the region that are interested in doing something similar, including one in Muskegon.

To view a video about the program, please click here.

Contact: Alyson Kass
Shape Up North Coordinator, Munson Community Health
Telephone: 231-935-9259
Email: akass2@mhc.net

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