By Ashley Stahmer, Communications Intern
Even on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, families still come out to pick up their fresh produce at the Food Bank’s Produce Prescription Program distribution station in Newark. Launched in 2016, the program helps supply nutritious foods to Delawareans in need through a partnership with Giant Food’s Our Family Foundation. Other partners include Delaware Pediatrics in Wilmington and Townsend, Brandywine Pediatrics and Westside Family Healthcare.
The program allows doctors to “prescribe” a “prescription” for patients to receive fresh produce from the Food Bank of Delaware. Referred patients are at risk for food insecurity and diet-related health conditions. The patients are able to pick up their box of fresh produce when the Food Bank van comes to their healthcare clinic. Ed Matarese, food sourcing manager, helps to distribute the boxes. In less than ten minutes, the families check in, receive their fresh produce, and are on their way. The boxes include 15-20 pounds of healthy fruits and vegetables, including apples, cucumbers, mushrooms and more. At this particular, the Food Bank was able to offer surplus produce, allowing families to pick from a variety of additional items based on their tastes and needs. Children helped their parents fill up bags, excited at the chance to try new fruits. The Food Bank also provides recipes to help patients cook and enjoy their produce in new ways.
While processed foods are often cheaper than fresh produce, the latter provides much more nutritional value. Having healthy fruits and vegetables can help patients combat different health issues and improve their eating habits. Patients can also check their consumption of fruits and vegetables through the Food Bank’s Veggie Meter. Most fruits and vegetables contain pigments called carotenoids that give them their vibrant color. Those carotenoids are then stored in the body as antioxidants and help lower the risk of disease. The Veggie Meter uses a LED light to measure the amount of carotenoids stored in the skin, and that number increases when someone eats more fruits or vegetables.
Currently, there are Produce Prescription distributions in Newark, Wilmington and Townsend that aim to help treat diet-related health conditions for families dealing with food insecurity.
To learn more about the produce prescription program, click here.