Doctors at two NYC hospitals will soon start giving patients Health Bucks — $2 coupons that can be used at any of the 142 farmers markets across the city. If these bucks start making people less fat, the pilot program could expand to other low-income neighborhoods.
The program is pretty simple. The doctors gave 140 patients the bucks to buy fruits and veggies. Next, they'll track their weight and body mass index, counsel them on healthy eating, and hope that in four months they emerge from their fat cocoons as (skinny) butterflies.
“Each dollar invested in Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program nourishes public hospital patients and their families, boosts revenue at farmers markets, and supports overall community health,” Deputy Mayor Gibbs said at a press conference today. “Farmers markets support the City’s efforts to keep communities fit by providing healthy and affordable dietary options in a localized setting.”
It sounds interesting, and it'd be really cool if the health counseling incorporated cooking classes, because that's a huge issue for many people. If you don't know how to cook parsnips, no amount of Health Bucks is gonna get them into your gullet.
In Berkeley, I visited a school in a low-income neighborhood that offered twice-weekly cooking classes from kindergarten until 8th grade, and let me tell you: Those sixth graders made some buckwheat pancakes with flambéed bananas and walnuts that were to die for. Those adorable little ragamuffins could COOK. When I was eleven, I lived off microwaved Costco taquitos and Fruit by the Foot. What I'm saying is: These programs are only as successful as the assistance provided with them.
I'd also like to know if this will also be offered to people who aren't fat — it's one thing to offer tools to an entire community, and it's quite another to leave out segments because they don't "look" unhealthy. Fruit and vegetables for all the people!