BY: ALEX BROWN
The main problem with health food is not a deep-seated mistrust of broccoli carried over from childhood, but rather the exorbitant prices, which make it difficult for most to subscribe to a healthy diet. A new program is challenging the prescription pill industry and the unfair pricing of health food, by prescribing free health food to all participants. Participants receive “Health Bucks” that are redeemable at “more than 730 farmers’ markets and retail outlets” in 38 states across America, and over 140 farmers’ markets in New York alone.
This program is the brainchild of the non-profit company, Wholesome Wave, which aims to match patients with physicians who can adequately assess and prescribe a diet that fits their unique needs. One of the basic premises of having food prescribed by a doctor is the increased air of credibility and commitment afforded by a doctor’s approval. Michel Nischan told NPR, that he “pursued this partnership with doctors because so many people rely on their trusted advice. When docs write prescriptions for drugs, people fill them. So why not prescribe healthful food?”
Wholesome Wave was founded by the award-winning chef, Michel Nischan, in 2007 in conjunction with Founding Board Chair, Gus Schumacher, and Founding Board Member, Michael Batterberry, both of whom come from high-ranking culinary backgrounds. Between 2010-2014, the company has reported the enrollment of 1,131 overweight patients, impacting 5,655 low-income families, and a total of 18 active programs. “The first year 38.1 per cent [of the participants] dropped their body mass indexes,” Nischan told NPR.
As outlined by their website, the Food and Vegetable Prescription Program works as follows:
- Participants are admitted to the program by a health provider.
- Participants then meet with a designated physician to discuss their goals and nutritional knowledge.
- Participants then receive a prescription, which they can use to purchase health food and produce.
- Prescriptions can be redeemed at participating stores, affording the patient free health food.
- Every month, participants attend a monthly clinic to discuss their habits, goals, and to refill their prescription.
According to NPR, a family of four enrolled in the program receives about $30 a week of free produce.
Though it may be evident that eating healthy food is among the best ways to fight and prevent disease, a pill, in its occult-like simplicity, has a much greater appeal to patients than excavating one’s longstanding dietary practices in favour of a raw or vegan diet. Yet, according to the Diabetes Self Management website, “One two-year study of 25,000 people in the U.S. and Canada found that vegans had only one fourth the risk of developing diabetes as non-vegetarians.”
There have been numerous reports of people significantly reducing the impact of, or even reversing, type 2 diabetes simply by switching over to a vegan diet, thus enabling them to function without needing to take exhausting daily prescription medication. As the program expands, the future looks bright for those looking to gain access to a healthier diet, without compromising a majority of their income by drastically expanding their grocery budget.