Monday, August 05, 2013


Kale chips instead of potato chips

The New York Daily News recently reported that city officials unveiled a new "get healthy" program where doctors will prescribe a menu of fresh fruits and vegetables to patients battling obesity.  The city will also provide coupons to offset the cost of the produce.

Well, here in Eastern Connecticut, we are apparently way ahead of the game.

We are in our third year of the Backus “Rx for Health” program. Primary Care Providers at United Community and Family Services (UCFS) and Generations Family Health Center assess children and teens at risk for overweight and obesity and write prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at the Norwich Farmers Market.

Last year, 26 families came to the Backus Mobile Health Resource Center at the Farmers Market, turned in their prescriptions, and received $20 worth of vouchers to redeem immediately for fresh fruits, vegetables, farm fresh eggs, or whole grain bread.  The family could visit the market five times, receiving $20 worth of vouchers each visit.

The most important component of our program is education.  A registered dietitian is present to provide nutritional counseling to both children and parents before the vouchers are given out.

Dietitian-approved healthy eating guidelines and recipes are provided for the vegetables and fruits offered by the farmer vendors.  All market-goers, not just those participating in Rx for Health, are welcome to consult with the dietitian and pick up recipes and handouts.

Rx for Health is credited with converting at least two fast food junkies into vegetable enthusiasts.  For example, several families had never tasted kale, didn’t know how to prepare it, and were skeptical to try it.  Recipes were provided and suggestions were made.  The dubious children tried the new and different food and subsequently reported that they liked it.

We aren’t naive enough to think that given the choice, kids would choose kale chips over french fries, but it’s a start.

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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