Despite widely accepted documentation that consumption of fruits and vegetables can improve health outcomes, many Americans are not eating the quantity of these foods that would bring on advantageous changes. In particular, those who have low food security are less likely to eat fruits and vegetables regularly.

The aim of PhytoRx is to “prescribe” fruits and vegetables to a food insecure population, in a way that encourages higher consumption, demonstrates ease of incorporation and motivates continued purchases for health benefit, not just sustenance or taste satisfaction. In addition to providing fresh produce, the program will include nutrition and health coaching, instruction on food preservation and preparation, and incorporation of locally grown crops.

In addition to increasing community knowledge of affordable produce options, this program will provide evidence-based education to healthcare providers about how specific phytochemicals can improve a variety of chronic illnesses. This offers another tool in the medicine bag; one that doesn’t come in a bottle, but can be found in the kitchen.

Major Objectives:

  • Increase the knowledge of the medical provider about the phytochemicals that have shown evidence to improve various chronic diseases. Medical provider education will be provided by Cheri Granillo, through virtual or in-person training.
  • Promote sustained increased consumption of fruits and vegetables in low income areas through produce distribution and education. Participant education materials will be provided at pick up location(s), through demonstration or tasting events, or provided virtually through short videos.
  • Improve public understanding of the importance of consumption and preparation of fruits and vegetables.
  • Provide staple fresh produce and follow up support for participants.

In a trial program, PHHI Extension partnered with HealthReach Community Clinic, FeedNC and NC Cooperative Extension -Iredell County. This deployment of the program is just one example of how to support providers and participants; we recognize each community is different and may need to adjust the program and partnering organizations to fulfill the program objectives.

Trial Scenario
Medical providers at HealthReach (a free clinic for the uninsured) were trained by Cheri Granillo, FNP, in the latest research supporting lifestyle medicine, how to use the PhytoRx pad and how to enroll patients to participate.

Patients brought their PhytoRx to FeedNC, a local food distribution center on a certain day of the week to receive a free box of fresh produce.

At the same time they were given a kitchen tool (branded with PhytoRx) and a link to a short video produced by Iredell County Family and Consumer Science Extension agent, Andrea Sherrill, RD. (This was initially planned to be an in-person class/demonstration, but COVID-19 safety protocol prohibited in-person gatherings at the time of the trial.) Each week, Sherrill covered one of the Med Instead of Meds seven steps to health.

Participants were also given a cookbook with budget-friendly, healthy recipes that further demonstrated the ease of incorporating nutritious behavior changes that would support better health.

Community Partners

Building relationships with community partners is a the suggested approach for the PhytoRx program. The partners in your area may different than our example, but there are likely similar groups that can provide multi-pronged support to ensure program success. Consider these community partners:

  • Community health clinic
  • Food pantry
  • NC Cooperative Extension Service
  • Schools
  • Grocery stores or co-ops
  • Pre-professional or professional students