Prescription Food Voucher Program

Clinic partners with CareOregon, My Street Grocery to provide healthy foods
Rachel Postman and Krissy Logan

The Family Medicine at Richmond prescription food voucher program concluded Dec. 17, 2014, but may start up again come spring.

The program is for those who are struggling with diabetes or obesity, or who don’t have access to healthy food.  Patients who met that criteria were eligible for CareOregon food vouchers, good for $15 worth of groceries from the My Street Grocery trolley.  The trolley is owned by Whole Foods Market, which came to the clinic every Wednesday.

"The goal of the program is to promote healthy food choices and to make healthy foods readily accessible to patients," said Rachael Postman, RN, FNP. "We have vouchers to hand out to patients who have been referred to the program by our providers."

"We want to provide all the assistance we can for patients, including filling the gaps in areas that are outside the scope of a provider's care," said Tom Wunderlich, manager, public policy, CareOregon. "Providing access to healthy food and education about healthy food choices is one of those gaps."

Patients who have been referred to the program through their provider/nurse/counselor picked up their vouchers at the clinic's front desk. They signed a CareOregon release, allowing the organization’s staff to survey them regarding the program.

CareOregon started testing the prescription food program in 2013, providing one-time, one-day vouchers to medical providers to distribute to patients who would benefit. Voucher utilization was nearly 100% when the My Street Grocery trolley was easily accessible in the clinic parking lot, compared to when patients had to travel to a brick-and-mortar location, said Krissy Logan, program manager for FoodRx, CareOregon.

Amelia Pape, food access coordinator for Whole Foods Market, founded My Street Grocery in 2011 and merged with Whole Foods in early 2014. She became interested in food access while a student at Portland State University, researching business models to address social problems. She became interested in the concept of urban food deserts - urban communities with limited access to fresh, healthy food choices.

"There are a lot of reasons for food deserts: Availability, transportation and income," Pape said. "... And access is more than just making food available.  It's about education: How to shop healthy on a budget, why certain foods are healthy, what certain foods are, how to prepare foods and recipes. We try to incorporate all of these components into the program as a whole."

Postman has been working to bring a produce stand to Family Medicine at Richmond for the last two years.

"This is the first time we've been able to have a program subsidized," she said. "The response from patients has been really, really positive.  We're all very excited."