The impact of a produce prescription programme on healthy food purchasing and diabetes-related health outcomes

Public Health Nutr. 2021 Aug;24(12):3945-3955. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021001828. Epub 2021 Apr 27.


Objective: To evaluate a Produce Prescription Programme’s utilisation and its effects on healthy food purchasing and diabetes control among participants with type 2 diabetes.

Design: Prospective cohort study using participants’ electronic health records and food transaction data. Participants were categorised as ‘Frequent Spenders’ and ‘Sometimes Spenders’ based on utilisation frequency. Multivariate regressions assessed utilisation predictors and programme effects on fruit/vegetable purchasing (spending, expenditure share and variety) and on diabetes-related outcomes (HbA1c, BMI and blood pressure).

Setting: Patients enrolled by clinics in Durham, North Carolina, USA. Participants received $40 monthly for fruits and vegetables at a grocery store chain.

Participants: A total of 699 food-insecure participants (353 with diabetes).

Results: Being female and older was associated with higher programme utilisation; hospitalisations were negatively associated with programme utilisation. Frequent Spender status was associated with $8·77 more in fruit/vegetable spending (P < 0·001), 3·3 % increase in expenditure share (P = 0·007) and variety increase of 2·52 fruits and vegetables (P < 0·001). For $10 of Produce Prescription Dollars spent, there was an $8·00 increase in fruit/vegetable spending (P < 0·001), 4·1 % increase in expenditure share and variety increase of 2·3 fruits/vegetables (P < 0·001). For the 353 participants with diabetes, there were no statistically significant relationships between programme utilisation and diabetes control.

Conclusions: Programme utilisation was associated with healthier food purchasing, but the relatively short study period and modest intervention prevent making conclusions about health outcomes. Produce Prescription Programmes can increase healthy food purchasing among food-insecure people, which may improve chronic disease care.

Keywords: Clinic community partnership; Electronic health records; Food insecurity; Grocery store transaction data; Nutrition incentive; Produce Prescription Programme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Food Supply
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prescriptions
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vegetables