Written by Growing Home Volunteer, Hannah Tate
Hippocrates’ famous quote, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” has been used for hundreds of years to acknowledge the role food can have on your health and wellbeing. Growing Homes’s new Veggie RX program, in partnership with UI Health, hopes to apply that saying literally.
“Getting fresh vegetables right into people’s hands is important. It helps people realize that vegetables aren’t just a piece of their diet or an addition – but a focus of it ” said Ezra Lee, Growing Home’s Farm & Program Coordinator. UI Health also believed in the food as medicine approach, and the partnership started there.
The Veggie RX program is a community based, comprehensive Diabetes prevention, screening, treatment and navigation program that aims to target underserved populations from the Southshore and Englewood neighborhoods with elevated rates of Type 2 Diabetes. Eligible participants will be enrolled in an 8-week diabetes education course that will inform them about diabetes and how to manage it through lifestyle, diet, and more.
To help encourage healthy eating as a way to manage their Type 2 Diabetes, participants will also receive bi-weekly deliveries of Growing Home’s local, USDA Certified organic produce for 8 months along with cooking demonstrations. “Our produce is really the best of the best, top quality and organic, and we’re so happy to share it,” said Lee.
Growing Home’s five full-time farmers grow over 200 varieties of vegetables in a combination of outdoor growing space and unheated hoop houses in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Growing Home believes that all people and communities deserve to eat well, which is why more than 2,000 pounds of the produce grown there is donated to programs like Veggie RX. Additionally, all produce is grown, harvested, cleaned, and sold within a 20-mile radius.
With Veggie RX’s education training and vegetable delivery, the program aims to empower participants by providing them with information on Type 2 Diabetes and different ways to manage it. The goal at the end of the program is to see a decrease in hemoglobin levels and show participants you can lower the risk of developing other health problems as well.
“The great thing about a VeggieRX program compared to our farm stands or farmer’s markets is that we can get feedback from professionals in medicine about how our produce is actually being used and how it’s actually affecting people,” said Lee. “The doctors or health professional then can write a plan and prescribe not pills, but beets, or greens or carrots. A prescription for vegetables.”