The Healthy Harvest Produce Box Program provides fresh fruits and vegetables to patients who screen positively for food insecurity in the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Center for Diabetes Education, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Cancer Center and Community Health Network. Kishwaukee Hospital clinicians in designated outpatient areas screen every patient at every visit for food insecurity and, upon positive screen, explain and offer them the opportunity to participate in the program. Participants have weekly access to a 25- to 40-pound box of produce available free of charge by presenting the approved voucher to the hospital’s food service staff located in the cafeteria. Participants may receive a new voucher each week and may redeem it for one box per week.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank and DeKalb County Community Gardens assist with food bank produce pick-ups, growing fresh produce to supplement the box, and packing and delivering the produce boxes weekly. Participants also receive links to resources and education materials on preparing and storing the contents of the box.
The Healthy Harvest Produce Box Program was initially started as a piloted project from December 2016 through March 2017. During the pilot program, 111 vouchers were redeemed. The program has continued past the initial pilot phase and, to date, 225 vouchers have been redeemed from 74 unique patients. Anonymous completed survey responses report that 73 percent of program participants who received a produce box indicated they consume more fruits and vegetables than before the program.
Strong relationships and partnerships are needed with the departments impacted by the project, as well as with outside stakeholders who support and make the program possible. Participants have the opportunity to provide feedback via an anonymous survey; because of this, some of the processes early on were changed and adapted. Continually seeking feedback from the internal departments, outside partners and participants is key to adapting to the program needs.
Next steps include program sustainability and the ability to impact a larger population of people. The hospital would like to work with family practice or internal medicine physicians to help families who are food insecure, and would like to assess how the program is affecting personal health outcomes for the patients participating in the initiative.
Contact: Dawn Roznowski
Director, Community Health Services
Contact: Beckie Frieders