An innovative program that treats childhood obesity by “prescribing” fruits and vegetables is having positive results in low-income communities with limited food access (these communities are sometimes called “food deserts”). The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or FVRx, is being piloted at Harlem Hospital Center; three other hospitals in New York have also been testing the program. The program is funded in part by Wholesome Wave, a non-profit organization that advocates for food access in low-income communities. (You can visit the Wholesome Wave website here).

The FVRx program targets children, but involves the entire family. In addition to monthly check-ins with their doctor or nutritionist, families receive nutritional education and recipes. They also receive “Health Bucks” which are redeemable for produce at a local farmers’ market — at twice the amount that the families could purchase with food stamps alone.

“An analysis of last year’s results found that 97 percent of the children and 96 percent of their families ate more fruits and vegetables after joining the program. More than 90 percent of families shopped at farmers’ markets weekly or more than two or three times a month, and 70 percent understood more about the health value of fruits and vegetables.

Most astonishing, perhaps, after just four months in the program 40 percent of participating children lowered their B.M.I.”

To learn more about the program, read the full New York Times article. To learn more about food deserts, visit the USDA website.