ProduceRx: Let Food Be Thy Medicine

This month has marked the start of the Penn State Health System’s innovative program called ProduceRx. Although it’s an ancient idea, treating food as medicine is getting a modern update.

With so many diseases that can be prevented with a proper diet, it’s amazing how food gets overlooked in healthcare. Things like obesity, certain types of cancers, osteoporosis and others can all be better prevented through nutrition and healthy habits.


It’s this reality which showed the need for ProduceRx to be created. As one of the firsts of its kind, this program aims to provide patients with a produce “prescription.” Essentially, when a doctor believes a patient can benefit from easier access to nutritional education and food, they can sign them up for ProduceRx. Eligible individuals can then purchase a subsidized box of locally-grown and sourced food for just $10.

If patients decide they want to enter the program, they can conveniently register online. ProduceRx realizes that increased access to nutritional food isn’t enough — it’s the education that really forms habits. This has led the program to focus on providing patients with an understanding of diet and nutrition. Considering that the program will involve all members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team, the approach is comprehensive. Patients will even receive newsletter and access to YouTube cooking videos for more healthy habits.


Communities can reap the benefits of healthy produce through CSA partnerships.

With Pennsylvania’s strong agricultural roots, ProduceRx seems like a perfect fit for the region. The program follows a Community Supported Agriculture structure, meaning local farms offer a specific number of “shares” to the public for this program. The initial provider, Strites Orchard located in Harrisburg currently offers patients access to its produce through it’s preexisting delivery points. Better yet, the orchard accepts EBT/SNAP benefits for the prescription’s “copay,” so low-income patients can still receive the nutrition they need.

A Future in ProduceRx

The true goal of ProduceRx is to support patient health and improve outcomes by making quality food more affordable. The hope is that research acquired through this program can show the benefits of implementing more programs like this across the nation. Ultimately, if comorbidities associated with underlying weight and nutrition problems can be addressed, health care workers may be able to identify other chronic issues more effectively. This could mean lower readmission rates, and a healthier population overall.

It was originally Hippocrates of Cos, one of the most famous physicians to ever live who said “let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” Now in 2016, we still haven’t forgotten his words, although it seems that we’re finally listening. With prescription drug abuse and misuse a reality of the American healthcare system, physicians are searching for genuine ways to promote patient health. Combined with the growing concerns over antibiotic resistance, ProduceRx may be the sort of program many have been waiting for.

For more information and to get involved, try checking out the ProduceRx website here.



Author: Connor Smith

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