A pilot food prescription program promotes produce intake and decreases food insecurity

Transl Behav Med. 2019 Oct 1;9(5):922-930. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibz112.


Food insecurity is associated with limited food resources that may lead to poor nutritional intake and diet-related chronic disease. Food prescription programs offer an avenue for facilitating access to fresh and healthy nonperishable food while reducing food insecurity. The purpose of this pilot study is to examine the feasibility, perceptions, and impact of a collaborative food prescription program in an area with a high rate of food insecurity. The study was a single group pre-post evaluation design. Participants were recruited from two school-based clinics and one Federally Qualified Health Center in north Pasadena, an area with a high rate of food insecurity in Harris County, TX. Adult, food insecure participants were screened at health clinics for eligibility. Participants received nutrition education materials and 30 pounds of a variety of fresh produce plus four healthy, nonperishable food items every 2 weeks for up to 12 visits at a local food pantry. Surveys and tracking tools monitored food insecurity, program dosage, reach, fidelity, acceptability, and program costs. Surveys and key informant interviews assessed perceptions of health care providers, implementation staff, and participants. Participants (n = 172) in the program reported a 94.1% decrease in the prevalence of food insecurity (p < .01) at the end of the program. An average of 29.2 pounds of fruits and vegetables were distributed per family per distribution, and 99% of participants reported eating "all" or "most" of the food provided. Program costs were $12.20 per participant per redemption. Interviews revealed that providers and participants felt the program was well received and highly needed. This pilot study demonstrates the framework and feasibility of a collaborative clinic-based food prescription program to address food insecurity. Future research should examine the sustained impact of such programs on behavioral and health outcomes.

Keywords: Food insecurity; Food pantry; Food prescription program; Fruit and vegetables; Health care; Nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet, Healthy / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Food Supply*
  • Fruit / supply & distribution*
  • Health Education
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Report
  • Texas
  • Vegetables / supply & distribution*