What’s the Latest Development?
A pilot program in two New York City hospitals is giving doctors the ability to prescribe fresh fruit and vegetables to patients with the aid of food vouchers redeemable at any of the city’s 142 farmers’ markets. The program, based in low-income and working-class neighborhoods, assigns patients a nutritionist who evaluates their eating habits. “The entire family (and not just the individual patient) is given vouchers called Health Bucks, which can be exchanged for fresh produce at farmers’ markets citywide. … In press materials, the city says it views the free voucher giveaway as a ‘prescription’ to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Any program that makes fresh fruit and veg more available should be praised for benefiting public health, but the current program’s romantic fascination with farmers’ markets restricts the options individuals have for accessing healthy foods. “New York’s farmers’ markets, typically only open during daytime hours for a short time each week, are difficult to access for the working poor. New York is a retail-dense city where most residential neighborhoods, regardless of income, rely on supermarkets, bodegas, and individual vegetable stands to purchase produce.”
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