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Program: Fruit and vegetable incentives

Program: Fruit and vegetable incentives

Fruit and vegetable prescription programs partner with health care providers to enroll patients and other community members with nutritional needs in programs featuring “prescriptions” with coupons that can be redeemed for fresh produce.

Low-income families are more vulnerable to diet-related health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are exacerbated by limited access to healthy foods. Fruit and vegetable incentive programs such as Double Up Food Bucks and produce “prescriptions” reduce economic barriers that some families face when purchasing fresh, healthy foods by doubling the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) resources used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables or providing vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce.

The Fair Food Network, the pioneer of fruit and vegetable incentive programs, initiated the Double Up program at farmers markets in Detroit in 2009. Double Up coupons provide support for healthy food purchasing for individuals and families receiving nutrition benefits from the federal government by matching the value of SNAP dollars spent on produce. Communities in 18 states have adopted the model. Since inception, Double Up has served over 1.1 million low-income families and partnered with over 500 farmers markets and 200 grocery stores.

Wholesome Wave, another leader of fruit and vegetable incentive programs, works with community partners to support the growth, quality, and reach of fruit and vegetable prescription (FVRx) initiatives nationally. Fruit and vegetable prescription initiatives partner with health care providers to enroll patients with nutritional needs in programs featuring “prescriptions” with coupons that can be redeemed for fresh produce. Wholesome Wave offers several support systems for members including the sharing of tools and best practices, consulting, and network building.

Wholesome Wave encourages strategies that maximize the multiple potential benefits of FVRx programs including improved patient health, increased produce sales, and local economic growth. Between 2012 and 2015 a Wholesome Wave FVRx program implemented in New York, N.Y. increased fresh produce access for 2,755 patients and household members and led to $185,000 in increased sales at local farmers markets.

Fresh produce incentive programs typically are paired with an educational component in which participants learn about nutrition and healthy eating, healthy and economical shopping, and healthy meal preparation, and also taste new dishes featuring fresh, local produce.