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Co-op Partners with City, County, Second Harvest Food Bank HungerCare Coalition and UW Health to Pilot Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program

We are pleased to announce that the City of Madison has received $23,120 from Wholesome Wave’s Nutrition Incentive Program Support and Innovations Grant to pilot a fruit and vegetable prescription (FVRx) program in partnership with UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center, Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin Food Bank’s HungerCare Coalition, Public Health Madison & Dane County, and Willy Street Co-op. 

What is Wholesome Wave?

Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit dedicated to “affordable, healthy, local food for all.” Their mission “empowers under-served consumers to make healthier food choices by increasing affordable access to fresh, local food,” using the philosophy that “poverty should never be an obstacle to eating fruits and vegetables.” A partner of ours in the new Double Dollars program, Wholesome Wave “unlocks affordability” through supporting nutrition incentive programs that increase the value of FoodShare/QUEST and other nutrition benefit programs when spent on fruits and vegetables, developing FVRx programs with health practitioners, connecting program operators throughout the country so that we may share best practices and “activating demand for fresh produce to create market opportunities and improve bottom lines for farmers and grocery stores nationwide.” We are very thankful to Wholesome Wave for supporting the City’s efforts both to maintain and expand the Double Dollars program and also to develop an FVRx program for our community. For more information about Wholesome Wave and their Nutrition Program Support and Innovations Grant, you may visit www.wholesomewave.org.  

What is FVRx?

FVRx programs are nutrition incentive programs for health practitioners to promote consuming fruits and vegetables as a preventative health care measure. Our pilot program is designed to help patients at UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center become Access Discount Program Owners and also purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables if health care providers determine that food security is a concern for the patient. Food security means a person has reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. When a person does not have reliable access, meaning they are coping with food insecurity, it can have serious health effects across their lifespan.

How Do Health Care Providers Determine Food Security? 

In order for health care providers to determine the food security of a patient, they must conduct a screening, because the health-related symptoms of food insecurity manifest in different ways and some are hidden. According to the HungerCare Coalition, screening patients for food security can then help health practitioners connect “families with emergency food assistance and programs. These services can help provide nutritious foods that are needed to lead healthy and active lives.” Currently, health practitioners screening for food security are able to make a few referrals, to programs such as 2-1-1, which guides clients to food resources in their community; and registering to participate in either FoodShare/QUEST or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The addition of an FVRx program for our community will give health practitioners another opportunity: to provide instant access to fresh fruits and vegetables from the Co-op. 

Health care partners in the HungerCare Coalition use an algorithm to screen patients for food security. Simply stated, the health practitioner asks the patient two questions: Has the patient worried about having enough food until the next time they could buy more within the last 12 months; and, in the last 12 months, has the patient actually run out of food before the next time they could buy more? If the patient answers “yes” to either question, then they have screened positive for food insecurity. This gives the health practitioner the information they need to begin to discuss resources available with the patient. To find out more about the HungerCare Coalition and the Food Security Screening Tool, visit www.hungercare.org. 

How Will FVRx Work? 

The FVRx program started at UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center on February 1st, and the pilot is scheduled to last through December 31st, 2017.

When patients screen positive for food insecurity in the pilot FVRx program, physicians will provide those patients with a packet of six months’ worth of FVRx coupons to redeem at the Co-op in addition to providing information about other food resources available. The packet will include one $4 coupon to apply to Ownership at the Co-op, and 60 $2 coupons for our Produce Department (10 for each of six months, through December 31st, 2017). The total value of the coupon packet is $124. Participation in the program will also qualify current and new Owners to enroll in our Access Discount Program, which offers an additional 10% off groceries and a free coupon to attend one of the classes we offer where registration is charged (some classes we offer are already free to the public). 

FVRx coupons can be used in conjunction with other coupons, including those redeemed via the Double Dollars program. They can also be used in conjunction with other sale prices. They may be redeemed any time a customer shops, and at any of our three locations. 

Who Can Participate in FVRx?

To participate in the FVRx program, customers must be patients at the UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center, and must screen positive for food insecurity during an appointment with their health care provider. The grant funds will provide support for approximately 150 patients at UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center, which is across the street from Willy North at 3209 Dryden Drive. For more information about the clinic or becoming a patient, you may call 608-241-9020 or visit www.uwhealth.org/locations/detail.jsp?locationId=120. 

Food Security Into the Future

Your Co-op is invested in continuing to expand the ways in which we can help address food security in Dane County. In addition to our established Access Discount Program, we are excited to work with our public and private partners to test new programs like Double Dollars and FVRx. FVRx is just beginning, and we are currently evaluating the first half of the Double Dollars program. The data we collect from the these pilots will help us determine how to continue and how to fund the programs for the future. We already have some  great ideas to share in the next few months. Thank you for supporting your Co-op in these efforts! We look forward to launching some new initiatives to expand these offerings, and getting you more involved in the success. 

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