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Posted on: June 20, 2019

Prescriptions Filled at Farmers Markets Cultivate Health in Washtenaw County

Table of vegetables at farmers market

After Anita Stewart suffered from a series of strokes and the accompanying medical bills, she went to Faith in Action for help. Faith in Action, an essential support provider in Chelsea, then referred her to get a free prescription, but not one that could be filled at a pharmacy.

Washtenaw County Health Department’s Prescription for Health program writes “prescriptions” for fresh fruits and vegetables. The prescription may be filled at local farmers markets and is worth a total of $100.

“It got me to realize how important eating was for your health,” says Stewart. “I’ve been eating so much healthier and feeling better.”

The average Prescription for Health patient ate nearly a full cup more of fruits and vegetables per day after participating in the 2018 program. Participants also reported eating less unhealthy food and an increase in self-reported health.

Stewart has now been a Prescription for Health client for seven years, as well as a Community Health Worker for the program for five years.

At each visit to the farmers market, Community Health Workers provide individual nutrition education and support to patients. Nearly all participants surveyed last year said that Community Health Workers supported them in eating healthier.

“I talk to people like I want to be talked to,” said Stewart. “I’ve seen so many people change over the years. It’s miraculous. They’re full of energy and excited about coming.”

Person handing out Prescription for Health tokens

Prescription for Health does not only improve patients’ health, but also contributes to the local food economy. In 2018, 438 patients spent a total of $28,428 at local farmers markets.

The program runs every June to December. Local clinicians refer patients who have both a risk for chronic disease and difficulty accessing food. Enrollment for the 2019 season is underway now. View participating clinics and farmers markets on the program’s website.  

Prescription for Health is generously funded by Saint Joseph Mercy Health System with additional financial support from multiple partners. Washtenaw County Health Department coordinates the program.

Founded in 2008, Washtenaw County’s Prescription for Health was the first program of its kind in Michigan, as well as one of the first in the nation. Many more programs in the state and country have been shaped and inspired by Washtenaw County’s. The federal government is now offering millions of dollars of grants for produce prescription projects.

Washtenaw County Health Department