Fresh to Flourish: Produce Prescription Program Spotlight

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

What they do: Primary care locations associated with Centura Mercy Hospital in Durango, Colorado, and Centura St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, Colorado, are providing up to 2,500 patients with up to $350 worth of fresh produce vouchers over a period of six months. The Fresh to Flourish program began in 2022 and runs through 2026.   

The program’s goal is to evaluate the impact of a healthcare-based produce incentive and nutrition education intervention on patients’ fruit and vegetable intake, food security, biometric health outcomes, healthcare utilization, and healthcare costs. The program also will evaluate shifts in the patient-provider experience and aid in the development of implementation tools that lead to broader scalability and ease administrative burdens. 

How they do it: Primary care patients are screened for program eligibility, which includes having a chronic health condition or risk of developing one, and either 1) screening as food insecure using hunger vital signs, 2) being a Medicaid member, or 3) receiving SNAP benefits. Once enrolled in the program and study, participants receive their initial $100 worth of vouchers and a brief education on the dietary and health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption. Participants receive an additional $50 in vouchers each month for the next five months. The vouchers can be used at local grocery stores, farm stands, and farmers’ markets that offer local produce. Participants also receive information about live or pre-recorded nutrition education sessions available from community SNAP-Ed providers.

To measure outcomes, participants fill out surveys at enrollment and at three, six, and 12 months after enrollment. Health outcomes, healthcare use, and, potentially, healthcare costs will be assessed in the final year of the study.

Mission: To provide and promote fresh, local food for whole health.

Major Funding: Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program and CommonSpirit Health’s Mission and Ministry Fund

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: Approximately $600,000

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect health: The program also promotes the use of SNAP and WIC program benefits and encourages participants to shop at retailers that also accept Double Up Food Bucks, a program that matches SNAP benefits dollar-for-dollar to purchase fresh produce.

FACT SHEET:

Locations: 
Centura Mercy Hospital
1010 Three Springs Blvd
Durango, CO 81301

Centura St. Mary-Corwin Hospital
1008 Minnequa Ave
Pueblo, CO 81004

Core Programs: Produce prescription program

Number of staff: 4

Number of volunteers: 0

Areas served: Pueblo County, La Plata County

Year Started: 2022

Program Director: Jess Church, MS, RD

Contact Information: 
Jess Church, Director of Food Security Initiatives, Centura Health
Email: jessicachurch@centura.org 
Phone: 303.673.7454

Learn More:
Centura Mercy Hospital Launches Patient-Facing Produce Prescription Program (Centura)

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