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Produce Rx Sows the Seeds of Nutritional Health for Generations

April 15, 2024

Poor nutrition is devastating the health of American families. A prescription produce program, from Tufts Medicine’s Mother Infant Research Institute and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, is delivering nutritious foods and a healthy start to Massachusetts families.

Pregnant woman with fruits and vegetables

Food insecurity and a lack of access to fresh and healthy foods is a national crisis. A diet of cheap, processed and self-stable foods is linked to the poor health outcomes and chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, which cause millions of deaths each year. The stakes are especially high for pregnant mothers because good nutrition is critical for maternal health, fetal development and a healthy start to life. That’s why Perrie O'Tierney-Ginn, PhD, Executive Director of Tufts Medicine’s Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI) is so passionate about Produce Rx, a prescription food program created in collaboration with Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD and Sara Folta, PhD, of the Food is Medicine Institute at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, and Chenchen Sun, MD, Department of Obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center, delivering healthy food to expectant mothers and their families.

Every expectant mother who arrives at Tufts Medical Center is asked about their ability to access food. Patients experiencing food insecurity, and who live within the Produce Rx program delivery zone, are invited to participate in a 16-week program. Participants get farm-fresh fruits and vegetables delivered right to their door along with recipes and educational resources.

Delivering the food right to participants' homes is a key to the program's success. Families experiencing food insecurity face many barriers to obtaining nutritious food—often living in "food deserts"—neighborhoods that lack adequate grocery stores. They may also lack reliable transportation to stores with fresh and affordable foods and are forced to shop at more expensive convenience stores. Delivery helps take the burden off of these families.

Dr. O'Tierney-Ginn is excited by the program's impact so far. "We know this type of intervention works and the data bears that out," she says. "But what's especially exciting, is that we're not just improving nutrition for one person. We know that better nutrition helps mothers deliver healthier babies and it helps entire family develop healthier habits."

Just ask Alice, a Boston mother of 4 who says the program has made a lasting difference in her family's approach to nutrition. "The food produce program definitely had a positive impact on my family," says Alice. "Not only have we been more open to trying different produce we actually prefer switching up our ingredients to add a bit of flare to all our meals. My children have fun helping me prepare our groceries and learning about how incorporating vegetables can help keep a healthy lifestyle. Our grocery shopping has change a great deal. We avoid the high-calorie, sugar-filled food and have all benefitted from the changes."

Dr. O'Tierney-Ginn and her team are looking forward to the opportunity to expand the program to help more families throughout the greater Boston area. The program is working with local farms to ensure participants have more choices, including culturally preferred foods they meet the needs and tastes of participants.

Nurse navigator Jennifer Roberts-Barry, BSN, RN who partners with MIRI to identify participants, also sees first-hand the difference healthy foods make to maternal and infant health. "Nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy pregnancy. Giving these moms the fruits and vegetables makes a real difference in their health and their baby's health."

Learn more about Produce Rx

Press Releases
Perrie O'Tierney-Ginn, PhD, Named Executive Director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center
Tufts Medicine announced today that Perrie O'Tierney-Ginn, PhD, has been named the permanent Executive Director of the Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI) at Tufts Medical Center. She had served as the Interim Executive Director of MIRI since September 2021.
Press Releases
MelroseWakefield Hospital’s Mobile Food Market Celebrates 10th Year
Dozens of volunteers, hospital administrators and staff, representatives from the Greater Boston Food Pantry recently gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of MelroseWakefield Hospital’s Mobile Food Market.
Healthy Recipes: April 2019
April showers bring May flowers and delicious local produce (lucky us!).

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