Parkview Health VeggieRx Program Growing In Size, Impact For 2023 Cohort
FORT WAYNE — VeggieRx, a produce prescription program offered by Parkview Health, is expanding and adding new features for its 2023 cohort.
The changes will allow the program to not only serve more people, but also create a greater impact on the community.
VeggieRx helps increase fruit and vegetable consumption to improve health outcomes and reduce food insecurity in underserved populations. Over a six-month period, participants receive $50 per month to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, they attend four dietitian-led classes, where they learn the benefits of incorporating more produce into their diets and how to use it through demonstrations, tastings and hands-on experiences.
Previous VeggieRx participants have seen measurable clinical outcomes, including lower A1C levels and blood pressure, weight loss and other improvements in overall health. They’ve also gained familiarity with preparing fresh produce, and increased knowledge of local food systems and resources.
VeggieRx is funded by over $1.1 million in grants. In 2021, Parkview received a $466,373 Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2022, Parkview received a second Gus Schumacher grant of $499,977 for the program’s enhancement and expansion.
Expanded Capacity, Criteria
VeggieRx is what’s known in healthcare as a produce prescription program, which requires a referral. All providers, not just Parkview providers, can refer qualifying patients. Referral forms are available by e-mailing [email protected].
This year, VeggieRx is accepting up to 425 participants for the 2023 cohort, more than doubling its size. The program had 174 participants in 2022, and 122 in 2021.
The criteria for the program are focused on addressing chronic conditions and underserved populations within Allen County. Participants must have one of the following: diabetes or pre-diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity or at-risk pregnancy.
Additionally, participants must be on Medicaid, dually eligible for Medicare/Medicaid, uninsured or experiencing food insecurity.
New to the list of criteria is obesity, including pediatric obesity. A limited number of slots will be available for children and their parents to participate in the program, and their classes will be tailored to families.
In lieu of paper vouchers, participants will now receive electronic redemption cards to purchase fresh produce. Parkview will continue to partner with local farmers’ markets, but the electronic redemption cards can also be used at Kroger and Walmart, expanding access points and adding convenience for participants.
Limited Home Delivery
Thanks to an Innovation Fund grant of $45,325 from the Fair Food Network, VeggieRx will be piloting a home delivery program with Hawkins Family Farm in North Manchester. Up to 25 participants who experience transportation barriers will receive home delivery of their produce twice a month.
Participants will be able to choose what they would like from a list of available items, and the boxes will be delivered to their door fresh from the farm.
In 2023, VeggieRx is partnering with the American Diabetes Associations to support national research on the clinical outcomes of produce prescription programs. The local research is being supported through a $26,700 grant from the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition.
Parkview will identify 50 participants who qualify, and they will receive a stipend for being part of the study. The Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation will help conduct the research locally.
Past participants can continue sharing their love of VeggieRx through a new ambassador program. If selected, ambassadors will have access to additional classes and events, helping them to share what they learned with others in the community and encourage additional referrals.
Currently, VeggieRx is only offered to Allen County residents. However, the Indiana Department of Health awarded a $68,639 produce prescription planning grant to support the expansion of the program in rural counties. The grant allows Parkview to begin planning for expansion in Kosciusko, LaGrange and Huntington Counties in 2024.