Health Promotion Practice “Something Fun to Look Forward to”: Lessons From Implementing the Prescription for Health Farmers’ Market Initiative in Rural Upper Michigan (peer-reviewed)

Fruit and vegetable (FV) prescription programs are an increasingly popular community-based approach to addressing food insecurity and improving nutrition by connecting local health care and food systems. The Prescription for Health farmers’ market FV prescription program was piloted in a rural, low-access low-income Michigan community in 2017. The program enrolled 33 adult participants with chronic disease and provided weekly farmers’ market FV vouchers, educational nutrition handouts, and seasonal healthy recipes over 10 weeks. Weight, blood pressure, and the following self-rated variables were assessed pre- and post program: dietary habits, food literacy, physical health, and mental health. While most metrics remained generally unchanged, one of the strongest findings from our data included significant improvement in quality of life. Increased social interaction as a result of the attending the farmers’ market was a prominent theme from informal open-ended participant feedback. Given the ongoing public health crisis of loneliness and social isolation, this finding led us to consider the farmers’ market as an avenue for creating opportunities for meaningful social connection among participants and farmers. To this end, we discuss health outcomes of the Prescription for Health pilot program, reflect on unique aspects of implementing this program in a rural area, and explore future opportunities for farmers’ market prescription programs as an innovative form of nature-based social prescribing.

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