A Prescription for Healthy Food
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can help people feel better and make people healthier. TCHNetwork’s FoodRx Program offered in partnership with local medical clinics uses food as medicine to improve patient health outcomes.
Through TCHNetwork’s FoodRx Program, patients with a chronic disease who enroll in the program at Basin Clinic, Uncompahgre Medical Center, and the Telluride Regional Medical Center receive $120 in vouchers over 7 weeks to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from participating stores. The patients also receive coaching from clinic staff on how to stretch their FoodRx dollars and best incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their diet.
“Before this program, I had lost the habit of thinking about healthy food, let alone taking the time and extra money (which I don’t have) to actually eat healthily. I had plenty of excuses. But this program made it possible to get back on track.”
“The FoodRx Program Coordinator, Cyndi at Basin Clinic, recognized my need for easy recipes. I’m not a very good cook, and I need recipes that serve 2-3 people instead of 6-8 because it’s just me. I’ve appreciated the recipes and ideas of what to do with the fresh produce that I purchase.”
In order to address the root causes of diabetes and high blood pressure, clinics and governments nationwide began writing and filling prescriptions for healthy food. The idea is to improve health and reduce healthcare costs (both ER visits and the need for medication like insulin and beta-blockers) by swapping the likes of broccoli and strawberries for doughnuts and chicken wings.
In our region, the FoodRx Program started as a part of the West End Local Food Initiative in 2018. The Basin Clinic in Naturita and Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood piloted the program with a small number of patients to see if providing vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables and one-on-one coaching on how to buy and cook these items resulted in improved health outcomes. During the pilot, we determined that graduates found the program beneficial to their overall health and that they in fact ate more fresh fruits and vegetables. They became more comfortable shopping for fresh produce and stated they would continue to use the lessons and recipes learned during the program moving forward.
Due to the promising outcomes of the pilot, TCHNetwork secured funding from the federal Health Resources Services Administration in 2019 to expand the program at Basin Clinic and Uncompahgre Medical Center and to launch the program at the Telluride Regional Medical Center.