The White House is recommending “food as medicine” as part of a new nationwide strategy to increase healthy eating and reduce the number of Americans struggling with diet-related conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Michelle Howell, owner of the Need More Acres Farm in Scottsville, said U. S. Department of Agriculture funding has helped expand a state pilot program called Grocery RX, which began in 2017. The program allows Medicaid, WIC and SNAP participants with dietary recommendations from their doctor to receive fresh food boxes through farmers markets, farm pickup or home delivery.
“What that means is that we’re able to work with public health providers, health departments, hospitals, doctors, resource providers,” Howell outlined. “Now we’re working alongside what they’re being told, changes they need to be making for their health, and then combining that with the access to the food.”
She added the program is now available in almost every Kentucky county. Howell is a recent recipient of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s 2022 Healthy Kentucky Champions award. The awards recognize individuals dedicated to improving the health of Kentuckians at a community or state level.
Howell noted for the past decade, the Double Dollars program has allowed SNAP participants to double the amount of food they purchase at local farmers markets. She added she is grateful public awareness on the food-disease connection has increased, and pointed out folks need community support to help change eating habits.
“I think the reason why farmers and consumers can make this kind of work happen is because we know each other’s name, we recognize one another, we get to build a relationship,” Howell emphasized. “That helps meet that emotional need, that then makes it easier to make some of these dietary changes.”
Chloe Atwater, policy associate at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, explained the White House strategy also includes a plan to address food waste.
“We have a large resistance to eating fruits and vegetables that are bruised or imperfect,” Atwater pointed out. “And diverting those foods from the landfill into the charitable food system could go a long way in addressing food and nutrition and security.”
According to Feeding America, each year in the U.S. more than 100 billion pounds of food – equivalent to 130 billion meals – end up in the dumpster.