Eighteen year-old Janet Lopez, a mother of two, says her eating habits are pretty typical for a lot of people in her Columbia Heights neighborhood. She says it’s because produce is expensive.
But over the last couple of months, things have begun to change. That is because her doctor is now demanding she and her children eat healthier, to the point where she now gets a weekly prescription for fruits and vegetables from the local farmer’s market.
“It’s difficult because I make a little bit of money at work so I tend to depend on my mom at times. I get strawberries, apples, berries, oranges,vegetables – I get beans, cucumbers, tomatoes.” says Lopez.
It’s all part of the fruit and vegetable prescription program, a joint project between Unity Healthcare and Community Non-profits. It gives 35 families a prescription that is honored at 5 different markets throughout the city. The amount of money patients get to spend vary depending on the size of the family. It can be as much as 60 dollars a week.
Mirna Valdez, of the Unity Healthcare Upper Cardozo Center, says getting a prescription helps patients realize how significant a healthy diet really is.
“Considering the economy, it helps them very much. It makes them feel like, they think medicine is important for their health, but also the vegetables. You know the doctors prescribe it – an amount of vegetables and fruits you have to have in your life,” says Valdez.
The program also introduces patients to farmers markets; Lauren Biel is executive director of DC Greens, one of the program’s partners. Janet Lopez says she’s already starting to feel the impact of eating more fruits and vegetables.
“I feel that I have more energy; I feel like I’m doing something that is healthy for me, I feel healthier, cause I’m eating stuff that I need and I should be eating.”