Prescription Produce Provides Access to Healthy Food

July 22, 2018

"I now know better, so I eat better!” said Bertha Nance, the new Garden Manager at Crossing Healthcare’s garden. 

After 2 years of participating in The Good Samaritan Inn’s garden training program, Bertha has recently joined the Crossing Healthcare team as the full-time Garden Manager.

Nutrition is a low-cost, primary form of treatment for patients. After we began our Prescription Produce program, the Crossing Healthcare garden blossomed alongside it as a way to get fresh, local produce to our patients.

What’s Prescription Produce?

The Prescription Produce program serves patients who have been diagnosed with prediabetes, diabetes, children age 7-12 that are in the overweight category (BMI vs Age >85th%ile) and medication assisted treatment patients (MAT) . And, it’s making an impact!

In 2017, 5 Prescription Produce participants who had prediabetes were no longer in the prediabetes ranged.
Of the 22 participants who completed the program in 2017, blood pressure decreased in 14 of them.

“Our Prescription Produce program is just like a medication prescription except you get produce instead of medication,” said Allison Raiha, a Registered Dietitian at Crossing Healthcare.

After a Crossing Healthcare patient is referred by their doctor, our participants receive weekly prescriptions for fresh produce from their registered dietitian.

Prescription Produce is an important program to serve our patients in a way we can simultaneously monitor the impact of fresh produce on their health.

“As food insecurity goes up, so does health disparities making it even more important to provide  fresh produce for low-income individuals,” Allison Raiha said.

To address the need for access to fresh produce, a prescription for produce offers 12-15 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit to each participant. Every week, the produce is different - and recipes are provided. In 2016, Prescription Produce provided participants with 47 recipes. In 2017, the program provided participants with 86 recipes to bring home and use!

How Prescription Produce Start?

“Initially, when I came onto Crossing Healthcare, I quickly learned that my patients had access problems to healthy food.”

“So I started working with our local food pantries and figuring out the flow of how the food system works in our town for individuals. An opportunity presented itself to brainstorm with  Central Illinois Food Bank about ideas - and one of the ideas they came up with was Prescription for Produce. ” Allison Raiha said.

We want to make fresh produce available for everyone. So, we started Prescription Produce to bring fresh produce to our patients.

Prescription for Produce developed into having our own garden and farming our own fresh, local produce with Central Illinois Food Bank as a partner agency.


"The prescription produce program is one of the best parts of my job, because it gives us the ability to do more than just talk with patients about changing their eating habits, it allows us to help them get access to healthier food to help them achieve their goals."
- Elizabeth A. Shuff, Registered Dietian, Crossing Healthcare


The New Crossing Healthcare Gardens Manager

Bertha moved to Decatur a few years ago to help her brother and his wife, who are both diabetic. She now encourages them to eat more fruits and vegetables!

After Bertha moved to Decatur, she saw a Crossing Healthcare dietician who encouraged Bertha to eat better, and join The Good Samaritan Inn’s DIGG program.

Watch our interview with Bertha to learn more about the Prescription Program, where Bertha’s love of gardening started, and where she hopes to see the Prescription Program go over the next few years.

“It’s just a different way of living. We cooked all the nutrients out of everything when we were growing up,” says Bertha, who now includes both raw vegetables and cooked vegetables in her diet.

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