Curbing obesity with Rx for fruit, veggies

Big New Yorkers aren’t exactly scarfing down apples and kale, so overweight patients at risk of obesity are being given “prescriptions” for fruit and vegetables.

“I think it’s great. In principle, I say yes, we support it,” said Ottawa Public Health nutritionist Jamie Hurst.

The pilot program — a public-private partnership — hands doctors and nutritionists an alternative to try and change patients’ eating habits.

It’s part of a national campaign called Wholesome Wave.

Low-income patients are given “health bucks” – $2 coupons redeemable at 142 farmers markets.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruit has “huge benefits,” said Hurst, noting research shows it can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

The program has resulted in increased consumption of fresh produce, regular doctors’ visits, and nutritional education.

Low-income Ottawans too, have access to Good Food Markets, selling high quality, affordable produce and dry goods at cost.

OPH and various organizations have established markets “in areas where farmers markets aren’t necessarily viable,” said Hurst.

A pilot project in 2012 with four markets was a “resounding success,” she said.

They’ve now added two locations for a total of six.

The initiative will help tackle two challenges: cost and time.

“It’s cheaper to buy a bag of chips than a bag of apples,” said Hurst.

That often deters people from making healthier choices.

So does the perceived time it takes to prepare fresh foods.

The markets are situated across Ottawa: Michele Heights (2955 Michele Dr.), Nanny Goat (corner of Bronson Ave. & Laurier Ave.), Overbrook (corner of Presland and Lola St. & 33 Quill St.), Parkwood Hills (76 Inverness Ave.), Somerset West (299 Rochester St. & 42 Stonehurst Ave/Laroche Park), Sandy Hill (731A Chapel St.)

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