Program prescribes produce - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Program prescribes produce

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Imagine a life without ever eating fruits and vegetables.

That's a reality for some Americans, but a new program is hoping to change that, reports NBC’s Doreen Gentzler.

"I didn't eat vegetables nor fruits. If I did, it was once every month or so,” said mother Janet Lopez.

18-year-old Janet Lopez, a mother of two, said her eating habits are pretty typical among some people in her Washington D.C. neighborhood.

She said it's because produce is expensive.

"It’s difficult because I make a little bit of money at work, so I depend on my mom at times," said Lopez.

But over the last two months, things have started to change.

That's because her doctor is now demanding that she and her kids eat better, to the point where she now gets a weekly prescription for fruits and vegetables from the local farmers market.

I get strawberries, apples, berries, oranges, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes," said Lopez.

It's all part of the fruit and vegetable prescription program, a joint project between unity health care and community non-profits that gives 35 families a prescription that is honored at five different markets throughout the city.

The amount of money patients get to spend varies, depending on family size, but can be as much as $60 per week.

"Considering the economy, it's a lot and it helps them very much," said Mirna Valdez of Unity Health Care.

Mirna Valdez works with patients at unity health care's center. She said getting a prescription helps patients realize the significance of a healthy diet.

(sot: mirna valdez, unity health care)

"It makes them think that medicine is important for health, but also the vegetables. The doctor is prescribing an amount of vegetables and an amount of fruits that you have to have in your life," said Valdez.

The program also introduces patients to farmers markets.

Lauren Biel is Executive Director of DC Greens, one of the program's partners.

"What we found was that the patients who were coming, many of them didn't even realize that the markets were there," said Biel.

For Janet Lopez, she said she's starting to feel the impact of eating more fruits and veggies.

“Now I have more energy and I’m doing something that's healthier for me and I’m healthier because I’m eating stuff that I need and that I should be eating," said Lopez.

Participants are selected based on their risk for chronic diseases and obesity. It lasts for 6 months.

The hope is that it can expand to farmers markets in other places - and serve even more people.

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