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Reimagine Food Story: Fresh Food Prescription Program

Posted on: November 9, 2023

The Fresh Food Prescription (Fresh Food Rx – FFRx) Program is a project of The SEED and the Guelph Community Health Centre, where healthcare practitioners and health team members prescribe free, fresh foods to patients who are food insecure and living with a diagnosed cardio-metabolic condition and/or a micronutrient deficiency.

The program received $30,000 from the Nutritious Food Workstream of Our Food Future to help staff build relationships with community partners and devise a plan to expand the program within Guelph and Wellington County.

The program is divided into three phases. In phase one, participants received 12 weekly vouchers to be used at any of five SEED Community Food Markets in Guelph, while in phase two, participants received 52 weekly vouchers to be used to get Groceries from the SEED, an online grocery store through which food is delivered to customers’ homes. Vouchers were valued at $10 per household member, for a total of up to $50 per household per week. Currently, the program is in its third phase. 48 households and approximately 150 people have been purchasing food with their fresh food prescriptions for 32 weeks.

In order to track participants’ progress, a voluntary pre-post survey was given to participants to gather information on barriers to cooking, food security, self-reported health outcomes, weekly fruit and vegetable consumption, and involvement in activities in the community. Biometric measures, including blood pressure and blood markers of cardiometabolic health and nutritional adequacy, were collected in phase 2 participants. Interviews were also conducted with participants at the completion of the program to understand perceptions of the program itself.

The program’s success can be attributed to their dedicated partners. Beyond the Guelph Community Health Centre and The SEED, the program is a collaboration between the University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo, the University of Victoria, East Wellington Family Health Team, East Wellington Community Services, Sprott Foundation and Schad Foundation.

Together, these partners have created a program that truly benefits participants. Undeniably, the program has improved individual’s access to healthy and nutritious foods, either discounted or free of cost. As an outcome of increased food access, participants have also noticed improved levels of food security.

“The proportion of participants classified as severely food insecure fell from 47.4% to 24.5%. Those who need food access support the most benefited the most from our program”

Program Lead

Additionally, consumption of nutritious produce such as dark green and orange vegetables and fruit increased throughout the program, which contributed to increased levels of essential vitamins and nutrients.

“I feel like a new woman, I was able to reverse my diabetic state to where my glucose readings are 4.9 down from 7.4 when I started the program.”

Program Participant

“I feel like a new woman, I was able to reverse my diabetic state to where my glucose readings are 4.9 down from 7.4 when I started the program.”

Program Participant

The program has also encouraged social engagement and participation in activities such as the Guelph Community Health Centre’s Tasty Tables and Mindfulness Program and various SEED markets.

While the program prioritizes the health and wellbeing of individuals and the community at large, there’s still work to be done. The FFRx coordinators want to see more health centers adopting food prescriptions and embedding food access supports into the health care and treatment of disease. Social determinants of health must be integrated within the healthcare system if people want to see effective healthcare treatment. Recently, the FFRx program has partnered with The University of Guelph and East Wellington Family Health Team to apply for funds from The Public Health Agency of Canada to continue food prescribing in Guelph & Wellington County. It is their goal that Canadians have enough money to access their right to food.

If someone would like to get involved with The Fresh Food Rx program, they can email the program lead at arichter@guelpchc.ca or call @ 519-821-6638 x396. All available prescriptions have been issued, but a waitlist is currently being compiled for eligible people and those who want to be involved in this program.

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