With all the talk of taxing and banning the foods (and sodas) that are bad for us, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that doing the opposite can work, too. In fact, subsidies for healthy foods can be very effective at changing eating habits. And we’re learning even more about how well this approach can work from an innovative program designed by the nonprofit Wholesome Wave called Fruit and Vegetable Rx.
As the name might suggest, the program provides low-income people who don't have much access to healthy food a doctor’s “prescription” plus vouchers that can be used to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Jane Black reports for the Washington Post on Washington, D.C.’s pilot project version of the program run by local nonprofits in conjunction with a health clinic:
On June 6, the clinic began writing “fruit and vegetable prescriptions” to help cover the cost of fresh produce. Thirty-five families will receive vouchers for $1 per family member per day -- $112 every four weeks for a family of four -- to spend at any of five District farmers markets ... The hope is that a medical endorsement of healthful eating, plus cash to buy ingredients, will help families make real changes to the way they shop and eat.
Early data suggests that such programs do exactly that. There’s also anecdotal evidence that these kinds of programs can lead to healthier lifestyles overall: