Seniors Living Well with Rx for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Idaho

Clubs and Organizations

April 25, 2019


This blog - authored by Kathy Gardner, Director, and Stephanie Cooper, Program Coordinator, Food is Medicine at the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force - is the forth in a series of guest columns written by individuals from other organizations that share our mission of reducing hunger among seniors.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - African Proverb

The Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force (IHRTF) believes in the power of collaboration to leverage policy change and inspire social change to eradicate hunger throughout Idaho. Our mission is to put private and public resources into action statewide in order to eliminate hunger and provide food security for all Idahoans. This task is daunting but with the partnerships we have cultivated we are making strides through innovative programs like our Rx Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Idaho (RxFFVI). Our Rx for produce is implemented in medical settings. Patients are screened for food insecurity using the Hunger Vital Sign ™ a two question nationally validated screening tool. If the patient also has a diet related disease, namely, obesity, prediabetes, diabetes, prehypertension or hypertension, then they may be referred to a Care Navigator at the Task Force for the RxFFVI program.

When enrolled in the RxFFVI program, participants receive fresh fruits and vegetables for 4 months at no cost to them. They can shop at local retail sites using secure vouchers as cash. Participants agree to take a survey both before and after completing the program. Those enrolled will also be given a cooking toolkit that includes a vegetable peeler, food thermometer, cutting board, measuring cups, healthy recipes and more. At the end of the program, they will receive $10 for completing the post survey.

Until recently, we were working exclusively with the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho (FMRI) system of clinics. In March, we received a grant allowing for expansion and we are now partnering with the Area 3 Agency on Aging and Mercy Senior Housing. Tama Anderson of Mercy Senior Housing (a non-profit, low income senior housing facility) reached out to us to address food insecurity among her senior residents. IHRTF hosted a training to inform community members, like Tama, how to assist seniors in applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as Food Stamps). It was during this training that Tama mentioned her residents had requested diabetes education. In our work with the Area 3 Agency on Aging we were aware they offered a 6-week, Medicare-approved workshop, Living Well with Diabetes. We connected Tama and the Area 3 Agency on Aging to set up a workshop this summer at one of Mercy’s senior housing facilities. In addition, we will be piloting our RxFFVI program as an incentive to complete the course. Those senior residents with diabetes will be given education about managing their condition and the fresh produce to implement what they are learning. Additionally, the local senior center will provide transportation from Mercy senior housing to a RxFFVI participating retailer to ensure the seniors can redeem their vouchers. It is only through coordinated effort that communities will be changed and senior hunger and well-being addressed!

For more information about the program you can contact the IHRTF directly at info@idahohunger.org or 208-447-8218.