Wholesome Wave CEO Michel Nischan addressed Congressional Briefing about Produce Prescriptions
Briefing hosted by Congresswoman Pingree
Washington, DC - Yesterday our CEO Michel Nischan spoke at a Congressional Briefing hosted by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) about the power of produce prescriptions. Titled “Food Is Medicine,” the briefing examined the successes of doctors writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables, a program Wholesome Wave has been growing for years, and which is included in the recently introduced bipartisan “Local FARMS Act” - introduced by Pingree, Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). The Bill is inspired in part by Wholesome Wave’s decade of work in this space, especially in produce prescriptions.
“Everyone knows that eating enough fruits and vegetables can help keep us healthy,” Pingree said, “but our food system hasn’t gotten the message. The least expensive foods are the least healthy for us and that’s leading to obesity, heart disease, and other health conditions that cost our country billions of dollars every year. A simple idea is helping change that bit by bit—having doctors write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables and offering vouchers to help their patients purchase them. The results so far have been very encouraging, and I think we need to see what would happen if we ran this initiative on a larger scale.”
“Doctors tell us that when they can prescribe produce, patients go from eating no fruits and vegetables at all, to eating several servings every day,” Nischan explained. “And over time, that can turn their health around. If this provision passes, we could very well see the day where all Americans, regardless of income, can exercise their right to choose healthier food for their families, and take part in eating our way out of the national debt. Wouldn’t that be delicious!?” Nischan said in the briefing this morning.
Wholesome Wave’s Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program® (FVRx®), which empowers doctors to write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables, currently runs in 12 states across the country reaching thousands of individuals who struggle with diet-related illness and are often unable to put produce on the table—simply because they cannot afford it. Representative Pingree’s bill would launch a pilot prescription program, Harvesting Health, to build on the success that FVRx has demonstrated.
Our Target-funded FVRx, which reached 2300+ recipients in our 2016 Los Angeles pilot, is now running in LA, Houston and Miami that is reaching more than 5,000 people. In the pilot, 93% of participants met produce-consumption guidelines by program’s conclusion, with a 128% increase in the number of cups of fruits and vegetables consumed per person. Target’s over-$2Million investment in the program 2016-2017 demonstrates the appeal to public-private partnerships; FVRx is poised to expand dramatically as more large grocery brands get involved, and as government support expands.
Across Wholesome Wave’s prescription programs, 47% of participating patients decrease their BMI, and patient satisfaction soars. But the program doesn’t just support families in need. It’s also good for businesses, farmers and doctors. In the LA pilot, farmers at a participating market took in an additional $96,000 through this program in just a few months, and participating families bought over 45,000 pounds of produce at Target. After years of advising their patients to make dietary changes they can’t afford, doctors can now give them the purchasing power, too.
Nischan was joined by Executive Director of War and Poverty, Karen Landry, who detailed the impact of the Target FVRx program in Miami, and Kristy Anderson of the American Heart Association, who spoke about the prevalence of diet-related disease and the power of produce in reversing this national health crisis.