Produce Rx: Improving Access to Healthy Foods in Our Community

Erin Booker, LPC
Vice President Community Health and Engagement
Christiana Care Health System

America enjoys one of the most abundant food supplies in the world, and in fact the United States is one of the world’s largest food exporters. And yet, millions of Americans either cannot access or cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables, which are essential for a healthy diet.

Christiana Care has launched a program called Produce Rx to help make these healthy foods more accessible and affordable to the people who need them.

The Problem

In many communities, including here in Wilmington, Delaware, Americans live in what are known as “food deserts”—neighborhoods where the nearest grocery store is farther than 1-2 miles away. For residents struggling with poverty and who don’t have access to transportation, healthy foods are out of reach. Often the only access they have to food is the corner convenience store or dollar store, which means the bulk of their diet consists of ultra-processed foods, sandwiches and junk food. Pregnant women in these communities are especially at risk, because malnutrition can cause harm to both mother and baby. People suffering from diabetes or hypertension can also be at increased risk without access to healthy food. 

How We Are Helping

Produce Rx works to make fresh produce more accessible and affordable for people in these underserved communities. To accomplish this mission, we have teamed up with Urban Acres, an initiative of Central Baptist Church in Wilmington that operates fresh produce stands across the area, to ensure at-risk pregnant women and mothers with infants have access to healthy fruits and vegetables as well as nutrition education and support. We have also recently begun expanding the program to include patients of Christiana Care’s Wilmington Health Center who have been diagnosed with either diabetes or hypertension and meet income guidelines.

Here’s how it works: When our community health workers identify patients or individuals in the community who face health challenges because of barriers to obtaining healthy food, we enroll them in the Produce Rx program and they receive “food prescriptions”—vouchers that can be redeemed at Urban Acres produce stands that have been set up throughout the community. Our community health workers also provide health and nutrition education, to help our neighbors understand the health impact of fresh fruits and vegetables—and how to prepare them, if they need help.

If you’d like to find out more about the Produce Rx program or how you or your organization can help, call us at (302) 428-6582.

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