Prescription Produce

We know that childhood obesity is a serious problem. Experts worry that today’s children will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents because of the health hazards of obesity. We also know that as a society, we’ll need to help create a world where children can find healthy food, exercise, and play.

Some Massachusetts doctors are taking active steps to do just that. Realizing that low-income children are especially at risk, they are helping them adopt a healthier diet by advising patients to buy “prescription produce” at local farmers’ markets–and even giving them coupons to help them pay for it. Check out the article here.

Since obesity costs this country $14 billion in treating health problems in children, and $147 billion in adults, this seems like a sensible preventive effort. In fact, 36 states have programs to encourage women and young children to benefit from the healthful produce available at farmers’ markets. Luckily, in the US there are over 6,000 farmers’ markets, with annual sales of over $1billion, and more are opening all the time.

School lunch programs are also becoming healthier – and so is the connection between farm and table. A program called Farm to School (which has branches in all 50 states) helps schools link lessons and contacts with their local farmers. In our area, Marin, Berkeley, Hayward and San Rafael have schools that participate in Farm to School.

The beauty of the program is that it does not require a large initial commitment—a school can start by just adding one item, such as local apples, to its offerings. That’s how Dover-Eyota schools got started, and now it’s adding other locally grown foods. Check out the article, “Minnesota Schools “Digging” Their Local Farms This Week.” Carrie Frank, nutrition director for the district, says, “This excites me – the opportunity to buy local, to buy the freshest. I’ve been in schools now for 17 years, and I don’t know when I’ve been more excited to be in the industry.  The students are quite proud of it. I hear comments like, ‘My mom grew this.’ Or one child said, ‘My grandfather and I picked this.'”

*Story also found on Examiner.com

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