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Summer is almost here, and that doesn’t just mean that school will be out soon. It also means that hunger will soon spike among the many impoverished families who rely on those schools to feed their children two meals a day: breakfast and lunch. But Ana Negrón, a family practice doctor in Chester County, Pennsylvania, who also volunteers at a regional clinic that serves low-income families, has an idea that blows the traditional food pantry model out of the water.

Negrón is giving hunger-struck patients prescriptions for fresh produce that are redeemable at a mobile food market called Fresh2you, which will be traveling from mid-June through mid-November to various parts of the county that don’t currently have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The prescriptions are good for $14 of produce, but the market will also accept food stamps and serve anyone in the area who needs assistance, not just those with prescriptions.

It isn’t the first such program – Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit with several offices across the country, piloted its Fruit and Veggie Rx (FVRx) program back in 2011 in four states: Massachusetts, Maine, California, and Rhode Island. The next year, FVRx was expanded to twelve sites in seven states, and it has since been introduced to New York City Hospitals in Harlem and the Bronx.

As Wholesome Wave explains, these programs don’t just effectively fight hunger, they also tackle the number one cause of death and disease in America: diet. “69 percent of program participants eat more produce and 47 percent decrease their BMI. And beyond the patient, local economies thrive because every dollar spent benefits the farmer, the retailer and the distributor,” its website states. As such, this kind of solution is healthier for both low-income families, and for the local economy, than traditional food banks, which rely heavily on canned and processed foods that are often loaded with unhealthy fat, sugar, and nitrates.

Indeed, a whole food plant-based diet has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, fight high blood sugar and reduce diabetes risk, lessen muscle pain and diminish chronic inflammation, promote a healthy gut, and even stave off cancer.

Given America’s skyrocketing rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other life-threatening diseases, it seems a lot more people, throughout the country and regardless of income level, could use plant-based prescriptions like the ones offered by Ana Negrón … and we would all benefit if more doctors gave such worthy advice.

Did you know? Eating a whole food plant based diet is also the most powerful action that each of us can take to fight climate change and maintain a healthy environment for all. Learn more about how you can improve your health as well as that of the planet by joining One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement!

Image source: Marian Weyo/Shutterstock

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