Washington, D.C., receives Highest Score Award for “food as medicine” programs at Milan Pact Awards ceremony
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Washington, D.C., receives Highest Score Award for “food as medicine” programs at Milan Pact Awards ceremony

The two programs, Produce Plus and Produce Prescription (PRx), aim to improve food security as part of a broader strategy to address disparities in diet-related chronic illnesses.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Washington, D.C, Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced that the city has received the Highest Score Award at this year’s Milan Pact Awards ceremony for two of its “food as medicine” programs — Produce Plus and Produce Prescription (PRx), both of which aim to improve food security as part of a broader strategy to address disparities in diet-related chronic illnesses. Washington, D.C., received the highest overall score, based on five criteria: Adaptability, Integration, Innovation, Impact and Inclusion.

“We know that access to fresh, healthy, affordable food can have life-changing impacts for our residents,” Bowser said. “As we continue to invest in these highly successful programs, we also remain focused on finding new ways to increase access to nutritious foods – whether through innovative programs like our Fair Shot Free Rides program or by using our DC Government resources to encourage the development of new grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods.”

Produce Plus is a locally funded, healthful food access program that provides participants in federal safety net assistance programs with farmers’ market incentive checks to purchase locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables. Nationally, Produce Plus is the only program of its kind to offer this type of incentive benefit to both Medicaid and SSI participants as well as TANF, SNAP and WIC. The Produce Plus Program directly benefits District residents and neighborhood farmers markets. The program also provides an important income stream for the local farmers, many of whom operate small, family-owned businesses.

The Produce Prescription Program (PRx), formerly known as Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx), allows medical professionals in Washington, D.C., to prescribe fresh fruit and vegetables to patients experiencing diet-related chronic illnesses (diabetes, pre-diabetes and hypertension) and food insecurity. This program takes a “food as medicine” approach by integrating produce prescriptions as an intervention in the overall plan of care. Produce Rx provided weekly vouchers to over 112 patients through five clinical partners in 2017 and was limited to seasonal farmers markets only. With the rollout of the 2018-2019 pilot, the program will impact more than 500 residents. Additionally, patients will be able to use their benefits year-round at the grocery store.

“Since 2013, Washington, D.C., has invested in several innovative nutrition programs that underscore the crucial role that diet plays in one’s overall health,” said LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, director of the DC Department of Health (DC Health). “It is my honor to accept this award on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser.”

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact-MUFPP is a global commitment of more than 200 mayors around the world that have shown their strong political will to move toward sustainable and fair local food systems, to promote healthy dieting among their citizens and to ensure the right to food for all. The Milan Pact Awards seeks to be innovative in the ways it supports cities’ efforts to strengthen urban food systems and adapt as the needs of signatory cities change.