A Holistic Approach to Fruits & Vegetables Prescription Programs
Access to fresh, healthy food has never been more important. In response to COVID-19, and with support from Harris County’s Healthy Financing Initiative (HFFI) and Humana, in 2021 Urban Harvest launched a re-imagined Fruits and Vegetables Prescription Program.
Urban Harvest’s first “Fruits and Vegetables Prescription Program” was launched in 2017 to support vulnerable students in Houston. In partnership with Memorial Hermann school-based clinics, the Houston Health Department, and the national nonprofit Wholesome Wave, this pilot reached 1,118 patients and created deep impacts: 1) 75% of patients reported being happier with their health because of being able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables; 2) 74% of patients reported learning new things about how to take care of their diet and weights, and 3) food insecurity among patients dropped from screening at 78% at the onset of the program to 20% at program completion.
Grounded in the learnings from the first pilot in 2017, Urban Harvest implemented the second program of this kind, this time in partnership with health clinics including El Centro de Corazon, Hope Clinics at BakerRipley East Aldine, and the LBJ Food Pharmacy in Northeast Houston. With this second pilot, Urban Harvest is scaling lessons learned and best practices from our first pilot program, to design and develop a set of evidence-based services for food-insecure patients to access fresh fruits and vegetables at their own clinic, SNAP enrollment assistance, and other resources at no cost including onsite nutrition education, and more.
With this re-invented prescription program, Urban Harvest expects to gain knowledge around sustainable and holistic pathways for food-insecure clinic patients to access affordable healthy food options while engaging them on the multiple benefits of healthy eating and Urban Harvest’s programming in their own neighborhood. At each clinic location, Urban Harvest’s Mobile Market is offering a new avenue for health clinics patients at-risk of or already experiencing diet-related disease to access fresh and healthy food while reducing food insecurity by introducing families to healthy food options in their own communities.
As we measure the overall impact of our second prescription program, we hope that our efforts ultimately increase community awareness of, and interest in, local agriculture and fresh, healthy food, increased knowledge of accessible fruits and vegetable options for families on a budget, deliver knowledge of fresh fruit and vegetable preparation, storage, and nutrition, create paths to financial stability for farmers hard-hit by Covid-19 via healthy food access interventions, and create effective, culturally relevant, and topical community engagement and outreach efforts.
“Humana is committed to helping our members and the communities we serve to achieve their best health. We have historically had a strong commitment to our many community partners in Harris County, and we are so grateful for this opportunity to help reduce food insecurity by providing nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables to patients in need of affordable healthy food options,” said Humana Texas Medicare President Bill White.
This prescription program is part of Urban Harvest’s commitment to developing interventions that meet the needs of a variety of groups and individuals that may not otherwise be connected. This way, we provide all Houstonians with more fresh, nutritious food, local farmers gain new customers, and more dollars stay in the Houston economy. Through this strategic alignment of resources and interventions, everyone wins.