Get involved with ‘good food’ vouchers

Articles
September 07, 2010

Get involved with ‘good food’ vouchers

Up to 50 low-income families of four in Massachusetts are in a pilot program that gets them ‘vegetable vouchers’ worth $1 per day for each household member to redeem at local farmers’ markets.

Up to 50 low-income families of four in Massachusetts are in a pilot program that gets them ‘vegetable vouchers’ worth $1 per day for each household member to redeem at local farmers’ markets.

The physicians who will continue to write ‘produce prescriptions’ until late autumn will assess how the program “affects eating patterns and monitor health indicators like weight and body mass index,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told The New York Times.

Pregnant women also receive vouchers through the program, administered by three health centers and co-funded by the Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited Foundation, Wholesome Wave and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, the paper described.

The Lempert Report applauds the direct connection between good food and good health that this program imprints on consumers. This program must shut once the cold weather sets in and the growing season is over. Yet supermarkets, in our view, could pick up the slack through the winter and spring seasons, and demonstrate in a most meaningful way that produce is a viable, affordable daily choice vs. the low-ticket center-store items that are often laden with fat, calories and sodium. 

Understanding that these initiatives are designed to shift behaviors in young people before obesity becomes an ingrained problem for them, supermarkets could turn this into a huge educational opportunity for both kids and their parents. Store tours to classes from areas schools could build further awareness of smart choices. High-credibility brochures could include messages from area physicians involved in weight control programs, as well as from store pharmacists who could paint a vivid picture of what daily life would be like with diabetes, and nutritionists pointing out some of the smartest food choices in the store.

Programs like the one in Massachusetts could require coordination between health practitioners, government, charities and food suppliers. But along with the targeted consumers, it is the stores that would benefit most from participating as a ‘good food’ resource.