Medicine from the farm: Food as prescription medicine

Medicine from the farm: Food as prescription medicine

We all know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But what if you can’t afford the apple, or any other vegetable?

One in four American children regularly goes hungry. So, one San Francisco hospital developed an innovative program.

Monika Russi is always on the prowl for ways to keep her son healthy, especially after he was diagnosed with autism last year. She was surprised when doctors pulled out their prescription pads and ordered food, not pharmaceuticals.

“Being a single mom with two kids and trying to eat healthy is a challenge most of the time,” Monika said.

Twice a month, low-income patients can pick up fresh produce, lean protein and whole grains free of charge. The food "farmacy" program comes after a four-month hospital study in which patients were prescribed food as their medicine.

“And what we ended up finding was that it improved not only the health of the household, but we also saw changes in the children,” University of California San Francisco Dr. Larissa Estes said.

“I’m a medical doctor and I prescribe medicine, but I always like to take the natural approach whenever possible, and food is medicine,” Dr. Gena Lewis said.

The study also revealed healthy eating not only alleviates symptoms among children but can even reduce the impact of chronic diseases among their parents.