(photo courtesy of Parkview Health)

Parkview Health in Fort Wayne has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture totaling more than $460,000 that will be used to support efforts to reduce food insecurity. Parkview says the funding will support its Veggie Rx to HEAL program, which provides fresh produce and nutrition education to low-income adults who are at-risk for food insecurity and chronic health conditions in Allen County.

Parkview says the grant will allow it to expand the program to serve more than 800 people over the next three years. Last year, the program served 121 people, and the health system hopes to grow that number to 250 people this year.

Veggie Rx participants receive a monthly $50 voucher that can be redeemed at HEAL Farm Markets, as well as select farm markets around the city. Parkview says it also plans to add local grocery stores in the future.

Veggie Rx participants are selected for the program through area healthcare providers. Parkview says prediabetes, diabetes, cardiac diseases, and at-risk pregnancy are also qualifying conditions for the program.

“Veggie Rx allows healthcare providers to literally prescribe fresh produce and dispense a tangible, healthy food incentive to their health-marginalized patients,” said Michelle Bojrab-Wray, lead community outreach dietitian at Parkview Health. “We have seen tremendous results from this program, including improved blood pressure and healthy behavior changes. More importantly, we’re making nutritious food available to more people, which creates a positive impact on the health and well-being of our entire community.”

The funding will also allow the program to extend from three months to six months, with the next session starting in May.