Produce Perks PRx: Produce Prescription Program Spotlight

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

What they do: The Produce Perks Produce Rx (PRx) program, which is active at 10 healthcare clinics and three school clinics in Ohio, reaches individuals with diet-related diseases, pregnant women, and/or patients experiencing food insecurity. Providers write monthly prescriptions for enough free fruits and vegetables to meet the recommended servings for the entire household. Patients visit their providers each month to receive nutrition education, measure biometric data, and receive a new prescription. 

Most patients are members of Infant Vitality PRx, which promotes maternal and infant health through pregnancy and up to one year after birth.

How they do it: Depending on the capacity of the clinics and local partners, patients are enrolled in one of the following:

  1. A voucher program that provides $30 worth of vouchers per household member per month that can be redeemed at participating farmers’ markets and grocery stores
  2. A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model in which a local farmer delivers bi-weekly boxes of vegetables to the clinic site
  3. A delivery program in which patients receive a box of fresh produce delivered to their home twice a month
  4. A hybrid model where patients receive both vouchers and a produce delivery to their homes 

In Dayton, through Five Rivers Health Centers and Sunrise WIC, programs focus on pregnant patients and their babies. The programs run for six months during which up to 100 patients and their families receive weekly produce boxes and monthly prescriptions to be redeemed at participating locations including Mission of Mary Cooperative farm, Dot’s Market, the 2nd Street Market, and select Save A Lot stores. 

In Cincinnati, through the School and Adolescent Health program, food-insecure students at risk for diet-related diseases receive produce box deliveries to their homes, as well as vouchers to spend on fruits and vegetables at participating locations. Produce boxes are delivered through a partnership with Findlay Market

In Middletown, through Centerpoint Health, food-insecure patients with diet-related diseases receive monthly CSA boxes. Prescriptions are filled by Mission of Mary Cooperative, which provides CSA boxes. However, this program is currently paused. 

In Columbus, through the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Nurse-Family Partnership, pregnant patients are enrolled in the program for six months and receive monthly fruit and vegetable prescriptions to be redeemed at local farmers’ markets. Local Matters provides patients with monthly deliveries of fruits and vegetables.  

In Toledo, through the Mercy Health Pathways program and Health Partners of Western Ohio, patients are enrolled for six months and receive monthly fruit and vegetable prescriptions to be redeemed at local farmers’ markets. 

In Lorain, through the Cleveland Clinic at Avon Pointe, patients receive monthly fruit and vegetable prescriptions to be redeemed at local farmers’ markets for six months. Patients also receive monthly deliveries of fruits and vegetables from City Fresh

Mission: To improve the health of underserved communities by increasing affordable access to healthy food.

Major Funding: Ohio Department of Health, Cincinnati American Rescue Plan Act funds, USDA GusNIP grant, Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, Mercy Health 

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: $600,000

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect health: The program has had positive health outcomes for patients with diet-related diseases. For example, one clinic in Cincinnati reported that 25 percent of diabetes patients improved blood pressure and fasting glucose levels, 29 percent lowered A1c levels, and 64 percent lost weight. Of babies born during the program, 100 percent reached full-term gestational age, and 89 percent reached a birth weight of at least 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds). 

FACT SHEET:

Locations: 
Healthcare clinics: 
Five Rivers Health Center
Centerpoint Health (paused)
Montgomery County Sunrise WIC
Health Partners of Western Ohio
Mercy Health Toledo
Cleveland Clinic – Medical Outpatient Clinic Avon Pointe
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus
OSU Wexner Medical Center – McCampbell OB Clinic

School Clinics:
Roberts Academy
Deaconess High School
Oyler School

Core Programs: Produce prescription program

Number of staff: 6

Number of volunteers: 0

Areas served: Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Lorain, and Toledo, OH

Year Started: 2013

Program Director: Debbie Serenius

Contact Information: (513) 769-7375 | info@produceperks.org 

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