DC Greens Produce Rx: Produce Prescription Program Spotlight

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

What they do: The DC Greens Produce Rx Program allows participating healthcare providers in Washington, DC, to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to patients with diet-related chronic diseases who are experiencing food insecurity. To be eligible for the program individuals must be DC residents, DC Medicaid or DC Healthcare Alliance members, at least 18 years old, and diagnosed with hypertension, pre-diabetes, or diabetes. Participants currently receive $80 per month for 18 months to be used to purchase fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables from participating Giant retailers.

Nutrition education is not a mandatory component of the program, although Giant has a Healthy Living Team with community dieticians who can provide free individual or group sessions for participants. 

A 12-month Children and Families Produce Rx Program was introduced in the fall of 2022 as a pilot program and is available to DC residents with children ages 6 through 12 who are enrolled in Medicaid. There is no health requirement for this program. WANDA, a female-led nutrition education and advocacy group, provides culturally competent nutrition education for participants. 

An external evaluator uses baseline and endline survey responses, as well as health claims and biometric data from the participating providers, to determine the impact and effectiveness of the Produce Rx program. 

How they do it: In the current iteration of Produce Rx, healthcare providers refer and enroll eligible patients in the program by calling in a “prescription” to the closest participating Giant store’s pharmacy. The participants can then go to the pharmacy to get $80 loaded onto their Giant bonus loyalty card each month. Providers may give a three-month prescription, so participants receive $240 on their loyalty card to be used over a three-month period. When participants do their grocery shopping at Giant, they scan their loyalty card at check-out, and the price of any fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables purchased will be deducted from their total. Participants are required to see their provider every three months to receive a new prescription.

Beginning in June 2023, however, the program is switching to a different, more user-friendly model in which DC Greens will partner with About Fresh to give participants a Fresh Connect card instead of the Giant bonus loyalty card. After being enrolled by their healthcare provider, participants will receive their card in the mail, and the card will be loaded automatically on the first day of each month. Participants will receive $80 plus $10 for each additional household member, with a maximum of $120 per household per month. Money will not roll over at the end of the month. The Fresh Connect cards can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at any Giant, Walmart, or Safeway store in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. 

In this new model, About Fresh will work directly with retailers to make sure they are able to use the technology. DC Greens will also be able to access a platform to determine how much money is available on participants’ cards, a feature that is not possible with the Giant loyalty cards. 

Participants will be required to see their provider every six months, and enrollment will end after 12 months.

The Fresh Connect cards are being used successfully in the Children and Families pilot program, with a 70 percent redemption rate (i.e., 70 percent of the money provided is being spent) and 89 percent utilization overall (i.e., 89 percent of participants are using their cards to some extent). 

Mission: To increase access to fruits and vegetables in order to help food-insecure individuals manage diet-related illnesses.  

Major Funding: Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, USDA GusNIP grant, DC Healthcare Finance

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: Approximately $1 million

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect health: In the first year of the program, 2019-2020, approximately 600 individuals participated, and 39 percent of participants reduced their hemoglobin A1c levels, 35 percent reduced their BMI, 34 percent had a reduction in blood pressure, and 75 percent reported an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.

DC Greens works directly with DC Healthcare Finance, the department that oversees the city’s public health insurance programs, with the goal of facilitating Produce Rx as a covered benefit in the future. DC Greens’ goal is to make Produce Rx a replicable program so that individuals across the country will be able to take advantage of it. 


Bread for the City
Community of Hope 
Providence Health System
So Others Might Eat
Unity Healthcare – Anacostia, East of the River, Minnesota Avenue, Parkside, Southwest, Stanton Road, Upper Cardozo Health Centers
Whitman-Walker Health

Core Programs: Produce prescription program

Number of staff: 5

Number of volunteers: 0

Areas served: Washington, DC

Year Started: 2019 (A farmers market model started in 2012. The retail program model started in 2019.)

Program Manager: Luisa Furstenberg-Beckman

Contact Information: 
Email: producerx@dcgreens.org
Phone: 202-601-9200 x2

Learn More:

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