Fruit and vegetable prescriptions encourage children to eat healthy

June 12, 2018, Nutrition 2018
Caregivers of children receiving prescriptions for fruit and vegetables told researchers they enjoyed visiting the farmers' market with their kids and guiding the children to use the prescriptions for their favorite fruits and vegetables. Credit: Amy Saxe-Custack, Michigan State University

A new study shows that a fruit and vegetable prescription program can improve access to healthy foods for underserved children. The program, which was implemented in Flint, Michigan, could be replicated in other areas to address food insecurity in children.

In August 2015, the Hurley Children's Center—Sumathi Mukkamala Children's Center, a residency training pediatric clinic associated with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, relocated to the second floor of the downtown Flint Farmers' Market. Immediately following this move, the clinic and the farmers' market created a program to encourage families to shop at the farmers' market by giving pediatric patients $15 prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables that can be redeemed at the market.

Flint is considered a food desert because it features a limited number of full-service grocery stores within city limits. About 60 percent of the city's kids live in poverty, and many don't consume enough nutrient-dense foods while also eating too many poor-quality, calorie-dense foods.

"Fruit and intake tracks from childhood to adulthood, making it important for to guide children towards healthy eating early on," said lead researcher Amy Saxe-Custack, assistant professor at Michigan State University and nutrition director of the Michigan State University-Hurley Children's Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. "We need to consider not only nutrition education but also barriers to access and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly in underserved areas. The prescription program is a first step to introducing fresh, high-quality produce to children."

Saxe-Custack will present results from the new study at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, Nutrition 2018, held June 9-12, 2018 in Boston.

Through interviews, the researchers found that caregivers whose children received a and vegetable prescription from their pediatrician were significantly more likely to shop at the farmers' market than those who did not receive a prescription. Caregivers also perceived the program as effective in improving food security, food access and dietary patterns of children.

"The caregivers shared their heartfelt appreciation for the physicians and medical staff who introduced the prescriptions," said Saxe-Custack. "Some talked about how they enjoy visiting the farmers' market with their kids and guiding the children to use the prescriptions for their favorite fruits and vegetables. Others described how they hold on to the prescriptions until they reach $30 to $40 and redeem them at the when dollars are limited."

The researchers recently received funding through Michigan Health Endowment Fund to expand the prescription program in Flint and to evaluate its impact. With this funding, they will partner with Flint Fresh Mobile Market and allow families to redeem their at either the Flint Farmers' Market or at Flint Fresh Mobile Market, which includes on-line or telephone ordering of locally-grown produce boxes delivered directly to people who live or work in Flint. This expansion will help the researchers to create a model program that may be replicated in other areas.

Explore further: The study shows implications of access to high-quality fruits and vegetables

More information: Amy Saxe-Custack will present this research during the Community and Public Health Nutrition Challenges and Interventions on Tuesday, June 12, from 9-9:45 a.m. in the Hynes Convention Center, Room 208 (abstract).

Related Stories

The study shows implications of access to high-quality fruits and vegetables

March 23, 2018
Researchers at Montana State University in Bozeman have published a study showing how access to high-quality fruits and vegetables—or lack thereof—strongly influences whether healthy foods make it to a person's breakfast, ...

Farmers markets inspire WIC moms, but grocery-store produce costs less

June 3, 2014
When participants in a local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program received vouchers for fruits and vegetables at area farmers markets, they ate a greater variety of vegetables and more often chose fruits or vegetables ...

Areas in need get a food market on wheels

July 7, 2016
A Michigan State University researcher is using his mapping expertise to help a farmers market and other local food sources go mobile in Flint, bringing healthier options closer to those most in need.

Farmers market vouchers may boost produce consumption in low-income families

July 24, 2014
Vouchers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets increase the amount of produce in the diets of some families on food assistance, according to research led by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and ...

Five-minute chats in the waiting room may prompt families to eat more fruits and vegetables

January 18, 2017
Low-income families were more likely to use their federal food assistance on nutritious food after learning that their dollars can be doubled for more fruits and vegetables, a new study finds.

Recommended for you

Moderate exercise before conception resulted in lower body weight, increased insulin sensitivity of offspring

October 22, 2018
Men who want to have children in the near future should consider hitting the gym.

Juul e-cigarettes pose addiction risk for young users, study finds

October 19, 2018
Teens and young adults who use Juul brand e-cigarettes are failing to recognize the product's addictive potential, despite using it more often than their peers who smoke conventional cigarettes, according to a new study by ...

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Engineered enzyme eliminates nicotine addiction in preclinical tests

October 17, 2018
Scientists at Scripps Research have successfully tested a potential new smoking-cessation treatment in rodents.

Nutrition has a greater impact on bone strength than exercise

October 17, 2018
One question that scientists and fitness experts alike would love to answer is whether exercise or nutrition has a bigger positive impact on bone strength.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.