WASHINGTON -- Some doctors are ditching pills and prescribing their patients produce instead. Carey Carter is one of them.
"I am 63 years young," she said. "And feeling great."
Carter’s diabetes and cholesterol are now in check thanks to her new medicine she picks up each week at the Giant pharmacy counter in Ward 8. Her prescription? It's a $20 voucher for fresh fruits and vegetables.
The "Produce RX" program is changing the healthcare game by prescribing food as medicine. The pilot program will now be funded through 2020 with organizers looking for federal sources to extend the program permanently.
"You’ve got doctors and clinical providers saying I finally have the tools to help my patients follow my medical advice," Lauren Shweder Biel, executive director of D.C. Greens, said.
The non-profit D.C. Greens is partnered with AmeriHealth Caritas and the Alabama Avenue Giant in Southeast, D.C., which is Ward 8's only full-service grocery store. The goal is to make healthy food affordable and accessible.
"There's this myth that poor people don't want fruit and vegetable and it's a myth of convenience that allows for inaction," Shweder Biel said. "We know that's not true; people want this food they simply lack the resources to get it."
Carter, who's been in the program since March, knows her way around the produce aisle picking out her new favorites. But an in-store nutritionist is always on hand to help shoppers out in case.
"Unlocking the power of produce," nutritionist Jillian Griffith, said. "Understanding what to do with those weird looking, interesting looking fruits and vegetables and how to take them home how to cook them."
Griffith has open office hours inside the grocery store’s new Wellness Center. She offers classes on nutrition and managing diabetes.
Carter fills her cart for just over $20. The program currently helps people East of the River, but Carter said eating healthy on a budget is a habit everyone can learn from.
"Look people this is a worldwide problem," Carter said. "It’s everybody's problem: Eating healthy and affordable."