South Merced is actually a food desert area, which means it does not have
easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We are glad to work with resident doctors
who are enthused about writing prescriptions to fill this need.
Healthy House executive director.
Doctors don’t usually write prescriptions for fresh food. An innovative program, dubbed “Food to FoRx,” is changing that perception.
In partnership with the Family Medicine Residency Program at Dignity Health, the Merced County Food Bank, the “Make Someone Happy” food truck, the Central California Alliance for Health, and the Merced County Public Health Department, Healthy House kicked off its this prescription produce program on Monday.
Resident doctors at the Family Care Clinic are writing prescriptions for fresh produce for their Medi-Cal patients who have limited access to nutritional food.
The refrigerated truck carrying the produce will be parked at the clinic, at 315 E. 13th Street, Merced, on Mondays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Healthy House staff also will be on site to distribute recipes, cold water, and lists of food access sites, as well as provide interpreting. Masks, nitrile gloves and other COVID-19 precautions will be in place.
“South Merced is actually a food desert area, which means it does not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Candice Adam-Medefind, Healthy House executive director. “We are glad to work with resident doctors who are enthused about writing prescriptions to fill this need.”
Much of the produce slated for distribution comes from the 100-bed community garden at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Many individuals, businesses, and institutions, including Merced County Supervisors Lee Lor and Lloyd Parreira, the Merced College Ag Dept., Master Gardener consultant Marc Medefind, Lee’s Market, WalMart, the Merced County Public Health Dept., the City of Merced, Jeff Rivero and many Hmong elder gardeners have contributed to this effort. The garden has been supervised by Healthy House staffers Anna Tai Owens, Grace Vasquez and Emilio Guzman.
A lot of the food transportation from the Food Bank and other locations is supported by the Make Someone Happy truck. “We are delighted to help in anyway we can,” said Don Bergman, who along with his wife Nancy use the truck to spread fresh produce and nutritional information through this region’s underserved communities.
A goal of the Food to FoRx program is to improve participants’ current health by providing them with access to healthier food. And, by introducing children to healthy eating early on, it may also boost their long-term wellness.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, well over 10 percent of U.S. households are food insecure.
“Food prescription programs like this are cropping up around the country,” said Sandra Lopez, Healthy House staffer. “Most of them are designed to get fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthier foods into the hands of children and adults who can’t afford to buy them, or who live in areas where healthy foods are hard to find.
“People may be more likely to make a behavior change if the recommendation comes from their healthcare provider, as part of a treatment plan for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or obesity,” Lopez said.
A Food to FoRx prescription needs to come from a primary provider, and the order is good for four weeks. As of Monday, 42 local residents were signed up to receive the food prescriptions.
For further information, call Healthy House at 724-0102.