Now Available By Prescription: Fruits and Vegetables

stone fruit In a new program to increase access to healthy foods and improve nutrition, doctors will be able to prescribe vouchers for fruits and vegetables to low-income, high-risk patients who need to change their diet for their health.

As reported by Gothamist, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program is in its pilot stage, launching at Harlem Hospital and the Bronx's Lincoln Medical Center.

Conceived by Michel Nischan and his incredible Wholesome Wave team, the patients receive the equivalent in coupons of a dollar per day for each person in their family for at least four months. In addition to receiving nutrition counseling, the participants' weight and body mass index will also be monitored by their doctors.

Apples from Migliorelli Farms

The 'Healthy Bucks' are valid at 142 farmers' markets across the city.

The new program helps more than just the patients. For doctors, it means being able to influence the nutrition of their patients in a more positive, effective way than suggesting changes. For patients and their families, the chance to afford fresh, seasonal produce. For farmers, it means more business, and continually increasing business as patients bring along their families. If the 140 pilot patients successfully lower their obesity after four months, the city will look to expand the program to other low-income neighborhoods throughout Manhattan.

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It's just another step in the right direction to assist those who might not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables and this program proves every step counts.

For more stories about Farmers' Markets, click here.

Making Waves in the Community: Michel Nischan and Wholesome Wave

Michel Nischan never seizes to amaze me. He is a man of many sorts - an award-winning cookbook author, famed chef of Dressing Room in Westport, CT and a fellow advocate for local and sustainable eating. His passion for food began at an early age but his pioneering efforts towards healthful eating arose when his son Chris was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In dealing with his son's health and looking for new initiatives in local food systems, Nischan's outlook on food was altered. "Food as a single subject has more of an impact on human health, societal health, environmental health and economic health than any other single subject," he said.

So I was pleased to see that NPR recently featured Michel and brought attention to his non-profit, Wholesome Wave, that connects low-income neighborhoods with fresh food straight from the local farmers. In total, WW has reached over 28 states and is currently working with 50 community-based organizations who manage over 300 farm-to-retail ventures that in total, impact over 2300 local, participating farms. The extended goal of WW is to create a more vibrant and equitable food system for all people, despite income by neighborhood. By working with local farmers, the accessibility of fresh fruits, vegetables and produce is reaching those people who truly can benefit from such efforts.

Although Nischan and his team work directly with farmers, their efforts reach out to community leaders, healthcare providers and government entities, as well. The specific, community-based programs WW created ranges from double-value coupons for those using food stamps to a new pilot program that fosters the relationship between healthcare providers, farm-t0-retail organizations and consumers.

Check out Food Republic for an interview with Nischan and to see their content curated by Michel himself. To find out more information about Wholesome Wave, be sure to visit their personal website.

Photo: Cyndi Amaya

For more on food politics, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

Chef Michel Nischan Talks Food Politics with Food Republic

This week Food Republic has a guest editor and it is none other than renowned chef and food activist Michel Nischan of Dressing Room in Westport, Connecticut. As co-founder, CEO and President of Wholesome Wave Foundation, which helps improve the accessibility and affordability of healthful, locally grown fruits and vegetables in food deserts, Michel was the perfect fit for guest editor of Food Republic's Food Political section.

While many chefs are recently jumping on the local and green bandwagon, Nischan has been known for leading this movement ages ago. As Food Republic Editorial Director explains through an interview with Michel, his first exposure to healthy fresh food was through his mother's kitchen while the family "using their small backyard as a miniature farm to grow vegetables. Though poor, they often wound up feeding the neighbors' kids, who were drawn by the fresh food served chez Nischan, when most moms were turning to TV dinners and Shake 'N' Bake." Then later on after working in many kitchens and experiencing first-hand how much food was made from cans rather than fresh produce, these factors moved Nischan into action to fight for affordable accessibility to healthy and local products.

This week, all food politics and news on Food Republic have been curated by the man himself, and to kick off this highly educational week, Food Republic held a special lunch in Michel's honor at the famous Brooklyn pizzaeria, Roberta's. With other food political gurus like Bill Telepan (food activist and chef/owner of Telepan), Jared Koch (founder of Clean Plates eating guides), Bill Taibe (chef/owner of Le Farm restaurant), just to name a few, I alongside Richard Martin welcomed Michel to his week at Food Republic as guest editor with coal-fired pizza from Roberta's and tons of political conversation.

Roberta's was filled that day with chats of personal food experiences and political topics ranging from accessibility to affordable organics to sustainable fishing, and lots more. It was great to host talks of local healthy foods at such a community-driven restaurant like Roberta's. I've always admired Michel for his continued dedication for local healthy foods in public schools and food deserts since the 90's before some chefs even caught on to the movement. He's definitely a leader in localism and sustainability and I encourage everyone to read his features in Food Republic this week. It's voices like his that can help change the food industry to a more natural and healthy route.

Check out our photos of yesterday's Roberta's lunch and click here to read Food Republic's Michel Nischan Week.

Photos: Cyndi Amaya

For more food politics, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)