A New York City-based weight management and nutrition program for overweight and obese children is going back to the basics. Instead of pills, intense exercise regimes, and body shaming, the health care providers are simply prescribing more fresh fruit and veggies. But more importantly, they are offering additional financial help so that involved families can actually afford these delicious and nutritious gifts from nature. The FVRx program doesn’t push costly and controversial supplements or advocate for abrupt lifestyle changes, relying instead on these simple “prescriptions” to include more fresh produce in the children’s diets. And it’s working: 40% of the children involved in the program trials lowered their BMIs after four months, with 97% of children increasing their intake of fruits and veggies. And there’s a positive ripple effect too: 96% of participating families increased their fruit and veggie intake, 61% regularly went to see their healthcare provider, and many reported increased household food security.
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Food deserts, of which there are plenty in New York City, often make it difficult for families, even those who receive government assistance in the form of food stamps, to actually find and purchase fresh produce. The FVRx prescription provides money to be used at certain retailers, such as farmer’s markets, who have a bountiful supply of fresh fruits and veggies. Along with filling their prescription, families can learn about different varieties of produce, experience seasonal eating, and support local farming efforts. The program reports that local bodegas and markets are also adding to their own array of produce, making it easier for families to buy healthy foods throughout the year. Throughout the program, participants return monthly to their doctor to discuss results and goals, get nutritional counseling and recipes, and to get new “prescriptions.” FVRx is currently in trials in four hospitals in New York, and has plans to expand to include community members with diet-related diseases including Type 2 diabetes.
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