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Broccoli Is The Best Medicine?

D.C. doctors to begin prescribing fresh produce

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A typical Saturday at the Columbia Heights farmers market, which is one of several markets participating in a new fruits and vegetables prescription program in D.C.
M.V. Jantzen (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/4738562520/)
A typical Saturday at the Columbia Heights farmers market, which is one of several markets participating in a new fruits and vegetables prescription program in D.C.

Some local clinics and nonprofits are about to start convincing patients that fresh produce may actually be just what the doctor ordered. Through a grant from the national nonprofit Wholesome Wave, some D.C. doctors will write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at area farmers markets.

"Doctors will choose 35 families at risk for obesity and other nutrition related illnesses, says Robert Schubert, executive director of the Columbia Heights farmers market. "Over the six-month course of the program, they are going to issue them prescriptions which they can fill at farmers markets."

A total of five markets are participating in the program, which kicks off in June. "It increases food access, it improves human health, and then it builds the local economy," Schubert says.

As part of the program, doctors will write prescriptions for $1 per day for each family member to put toward fresh produce. That means a family of four would receive $112 a month to spend at participating farmers markets.  

Meanwhile, Jessica Wallace, a physician's assistant at the partnering clinic, Unity Health Care's Upper Cardozo Health Center in Columbia Heights, says the program will make a big difference in her patients' diets. 

"We have a family of nine and they do not have money week to week to buy fruits and vegetables," Wallace says. "When you start to think about a family like that suddenly having the opportunity, it's really exciting."

The Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, U Street, Glover Park and Bloomingdale farmers markets will be participating in the new program, which is supported by the nonprofit D.C. Greens. It's one of 12 fruit and veggie prescription programs Wholesome Wave is implementing in cities across the country. 

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