Sydney, Australia, Produce Prescription Program Spotlight

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

What they do: “Produce Prescription – an innovative ‘Food is Medicine’ intervention to improve health among people with type 2 diabetes” is a five-year research project in Sydney, Australia, led by The George Institute for Global Health. A 12-week pilot study that was conducted between November 2020 and July 2021 provided strong support for the current, larger study that is currently running through September 2027. 

Food-insecure adults with type 2 diabetes will receive a free produce box containing fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts, every week for six months. 

How they do it: The researchers are partnering with hospitals and healthcare centers in the Sydney region who will identify approximately 200 food-insecure diabetes patients to participate in the study. Each participant will undergo a full medical assessment. Then, half the participants will be randomized to receive a six-month produce prescription, while the other half will continue their usual medical treatment to serve as the control group. The “prescriptions” will be tailored to fit health guidelines for type 2 diabetes and the needs and cultural preferences of the participants and their families.

Harris Farm Markets will fill the produce boxes and deliver them weekly to each participant’s home. Prescriptions will be adjusted periodically based on participant feedback and seasonal availability of produce. 

At the midpoint (13 weeks) and end of the study period (26 weeks), participants will receive a medical assessment to measure their blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and weight. Researchers will also measure participants’ healthcare cost savings to determine the cost effectiveness of the program. 

If the trial shows a significant positive impact on participants’ health and medical costs, the researchers hope to make the case for a national produce prescription program to be implemented across Australia. 

Mission: To provide free, healthy produce to food-insecure individuals with type 2 diabetes and their families in order to encourage regular consumption of fresh, nutritious food and, in turn, improve type 2 diabetes-related health outcomes. 

Major Funding: The Ian Potter Foundation and Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre.

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit / research project

Budget: $1.125 million AUD ($0.7 million USD) over 5 years / $225,000 AUD ($147,820 USD) per year

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect health: Participants in the 2020-2021 12-week pilot study had significant improvements in diet quality, food security, body weight, body mass index, and cholesterol levels as a result of the produce prescription program. Participants reported overall satisfaction with the program and indicated that they would be willing to pay up to $100 AUD ($65 USD) per week for continued healthy food deliveries. 


Location: Sydney, Australia

Core Programs: Produce prescription program

Number of staff: 5, plus 3 consumer advisors

Number of volunteers: 0

Area served: Sydney metropolitan region

Year Started: Pilot study conducted from 2020 to 2021; current trial runs from 2023 to 2027

Primary Investigator: Professor Jason Wu, University of New South Wales 

Contact Information: Email: 

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