Feeding Our Communities Through the Fresh to Flourish Produce Prescription Program

February 9, 2024
Partners in the work for food security - Good Food Collaborative

“I have had patients say they are grateful for the extra access to heathier food in such a tough time,” said Dr. Andrea Lewis at Southern Colorado Family Medicine.

Research shows a balanced diet can have a direct impact on health outcomes. Adopting healthy behaviors, like eating the recommended five plus servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day, can be difficult to nearly impossible for those with a variety of financial and geographic barriers. Enter our Fresh to Flourish Produce Prescription Program. Designed to address nutrition and food insecurity, this program is offered to patients at our Southern Colorado Family Medicine clinic in Pueblo and at three Mercy Family Medicine clinics in Durango and Bayfield. So, how does it work?

Eligible patients receive $350 a year in fruit and vegetable vouchers. The vouchers help them buy fresh produce at participating grocery stores and farmer’s markets who feature locally grown produce. Adult patients who are receiving either Medicaid or SNAP benefits are eligible for the program. In the La Plata area, patients can also qualify if they don’t have Medicaid or SNAP, but they have difficulty affording food. The program is intended for patients who are either managing a chronic condition or are at risk of developing one.

Once eligible patients have been identified, in most cases by a provider referral, our Community Health Advocates follow up to conduct patient outreach and offer enrollment in our produce prescription research study to take advantage of it.

Pueblo’s program kicked off in June 2023 and has 24 patients enrolled so far. The program in Durango started in September 2022 and they have 121 patients enrolled. Feedback from our patients has been incredibly positive. They’ve shared with us that they have tried foods they have never been able to before because of the expense.“

Thank you so much, I’m so excited to go to the Co-op and the Farmer’s Market. I usually don’t go because it’s too expensive for me,” said a Fresh to Flourish program participant. In Durango, patients can cash in their vouchers at Durango Natural Foods year-round and at the seasonal farmer’s markets. Durango Natural Foods has redeemed nearly $10,000 in vouchers since they started participating in the program in July 2023. In January 2024, they had their biggest month yet – redeeming more than $3,000 in vouchers. “This is huge as it means more people can access good healthy and organic foods that they may not have been able to prior. We are so proud to be part of this program and spread our local and organic produce to more members across the community,” said Jordan Duncan, Front End Manager at Durango Natural Foods Co-op.

For our patients in Pueblo, they can use their vouchers at Save-A-Lot year-round and at seasonal farmer’s markets.

“I’m really getting into cooking healthier, and I want to shop local and support the farmers but it’s usually too expensive. This will really help,” said a Fresh to Flourish program participant. Through our mission – to improve the health of the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable – we remain committed to addressing our communities’ food security challenges and continuing to find solutions like the Fresh to Flourish Produce Prescription Program.

This work is supported by Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Grant Program grant no. 2021-70030-35797/project accession no.1027395 and grant no. 2022-70423-38073/project accession no. 1029091 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as a Mission and Ministry Fund Grant from CommonSpirit Health.