BENZIE COUNTY: Eating more fruits and veggies has become the right prescription for dozens of individuals in Northern Michigan. And the opportunities for more people to take advantage of an innovative partnership between hospitals, physicians and patients will expand in 2017.

Munson Medical Center Shape Up North Coordinator Alyson Kass says grants to expand the hospital’s food prescription program will allow up to 550 patients to participate in 2017. The program also provides free cooking and nutrition sessions for the general public at local farm markets.

Kass and Munson Medical Center Coordinator of Community Health Amanda Woods call the initial project in 2016 a success.

“Our initial goal was to increase confidence and motivation in consuming fruits and vegetables and we achieved that,” Woods says. “We also wanted to increase the actual consumption of fruits and vegetables, and we did that.”

Under the 2016 pilot project, funded by a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services grant, 170 patients from Munson Family Practice used their prescriptions for fruit and vegetables at the Village Farmer’s Market at Grand Traverse Commons. Patients who had a chronic disease and patients from Munson Family Practice qualified for the pilot program.

“People had to check in at the market and received education,” Kass says. “There is an education component to the program because we are hoping to create a long-term impact.”

Woods says the patients who completed surveys after the program reported they were:

  • Eating up to a cup or more of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Eating more than one type of fruit and vegetable daily
  • More confident and motivated to eat fruits and vegetables daily
  • More likely to rate their health as “very good” compared to fair at the beginning

“We see these results as small but hopeful steps toward potential chronic disease management,” Woods says. “Through eating more fruits and vegetables, patients may feel more committed to making other lifestyle changes which could lead to a future reduction in medications or medical intervention.”

Recommended portions for fruit and vegetables are five to seven cups a day.

Additionally, nearly all who responded to the post-project survey reported they used their coupons at the Farmer’s Market. Sixty percent reported visiting the market four to seven times, and the majority agreed they will be able to eat healthier because of what they learned. Total coupons redeemed at the market totaled $10,650. Farmers commented there was more traffic at the market when the program was operating, Kass says.

Now, success is begetting success. In addition to the renewal of the state grant, Rotary Charities has provided a grant for the program to be expanded to Benzie County through a collaboration between Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital and the Grow Benzie Farmer’s Market.

The Munson Medical Center program has also caught the attention of other areas of the state. Woods says she has been approached by a group in Muskegon that is interested in doing something similar and other groups in the region are looking at like-minded ways to promote better eating habits.

“It’s exciting to see this program is making a difference,” she says. “We had participants tells us they enjoyed the lessons, getting new recipes and starting new habits.”

– Press release provided by Munson Healthcare

[publication mode=”thumb” name=”medical” align=”left” link=”viewnow”]

More Medical & Health News:

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski