The Food Bank of Delaware is partnering with some local pediatricians in an effort to increase Delawareans’ access to fresh produce and hopefully improve their overall health.
The “Produce Prescription” program is the first of its kind, pairing the Newark-based nonprofit with Delaware Pediatrics, a medical practice with offices in North Wilmington and Middletown.
“This is new ground for the medical profession,” Food Bank CEO Patricia Beebe said. “They’re used to prescribing tests, they’re used to prescribing pills, they’re used to prescribing more tests as a way to deal with issues, instead of the no-brainer which is food.”
Through the program, pediatricians will identify patients who may be at risk for food insecurity and diet-related health conditions and “prescribe” them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Beebe said the produce prescription program is a new and innovative way to bring about systemic change by encouraging healthy eating and healthy habits for kids and their families.
The referred patients can pick up about 30 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies each month from the Food Bank at their specific pediatric office.
“This to me was a gift on a golden plate to my patients. I can’t imagine a better opportunity for us to make real and true inroads into patients’ nutrition, more so than being able to offer families in our practice, who may have difficulty accessing fresh fruits and vegetables, the opportunity to have them at no cost,” said Dr. Matthew Gotthold, with Delaware Pediatrics.
Gotthold added his office will keep track of where his patients started and finished in terms of general health, to measure the program’s success.
Giant Foods’ Our Family Foundation donated $225,000 towards the 3-year program.
“Quite frankly, not only Giant, but a lot of retailers have not always provided the healthiest products to food banks,” said Jamie Miller, manager of Giant’s public affairs. “I’d say the past couple years, we’ve really been very much more strategic about how we work with the food banks and we’ve really made a concerted effort to find ways to make healthier foods available to the Food Bank’s clients.”
In addition to the distribution, the Food Bank of Delaware will also provide other services such as cooking demonstrations, nutrition education, benefits enrollment assistance and gardening instruction through the nonprofit’s mobile greenhouse.
Up to 120 families will benefit from the new healthy eating initiative which is now in its second month. And because pediatricians see their patients and their parents often, Gotthold said he’s already received lots of positive feedback.
“After the very first distribution, within the next several days, I saw several of the families who were recipients. And already they said, ‘Boy, I haven’t had cabbage and fresh carrots in forever,'” Gotthold said. “It was very rewarding and also surprising that it was that dramatic for people and that they utilized it in that quick a fashion.”