As the Hippocrates reportedly said, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
We live in a time when the American Medical Association has officially declared Obesity a disease. In America, nearly 36% of adults and 18% of children are considered obese. And while Americans are reportedly exercising more regularly, obesity rates remain unchanged. What gives?
Well, as any coach or bodybuilder will tell you, “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. It is conventional wisdom in the hardcore health & fitness community that your body is a result of 80-90% diet, and 10% exercise.
Yes, you read it correctly: Diet is much more important than exercise.
Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization that connects low-income people with fresh produce, knows this fact, and has introduced something quite genius: The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Plan.
The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Plan:
Led by chef Michel Nischan, this program uses a partnership between hospitals, doctors, and local farmers markets to help improve patients’ health by produce. It works like this:
Step 1: Doctors prescribe fresh fruits & vegetables when they think a health issue can be solved or improved by dietary changes
Step 2: The prescription can be swapped for “Health Bucks” that are accepted at participating farmers markets in the area. Participants receive $1 per day for each person in their family. So a family of four get $28 of free produce a week.
The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Plan directly combats a few serious health issues that face our country. The first is access to fresh produce. Access to healthy food can be limited by both price and location. This program seeks to combat the price component of the issue, and make locations easy to find. The second issue is a more complicated one, which is how to motivate people to actually follow the health advice given to them by medical professionals. The “prescription” format of this program seeks to encourage more people to follow their doctor’s advice.
“When docs write prescriptions for drugs, people fill them. So why not prescribe healthful food?”
This program is definitely a step in the right direction. After years of media hand-wringing over America’s obesity epidemic, and the medical industry’s (to be honest) complete bungling of how to encourage healthy habits and sustainable weight loss in their patients, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Plan is showing results:
“The first year 38.1 percent [of the participants] dropped their body mass indexes,” Nischan told me. And in the second year it was 39 percent of the participants” (NPR).
This program has been piloted for about a year and half now, and is attracting interest from across the country. Could prescription produce be the shift America needs to get it’s waistlines under control? Possibly. With over 70% of the country on prescription medication, maybe it’s time our medical system stepped back and tackled the obesity monster with old-school proven methods: Healthy diet and exercise.