At a Giant Food pharmacy in Washington, D.C., fruit and vegetables will soon join pills as prescription options.
Landover, Md.-based Giant said Thursday that it will participate in a pilot of Produce Rx, a program of local nonprofit DC Greens designed to boost access to healthy food.
Under Produce Rx, people who receive benefits via the AmeriHealth Caritas DC managed Medicaid health plan can get a prescription for fruit and vegetables from a medical professional for a diet-related chronic illness and fill the script in Giant’s supermarket pharmacy at 1535 Alabama Ave. SE in Washington.
A Giant Food pharmacy and produce department.
Giant said customers can fill the Produce Rx prescriptions during their weekly shopping trips at the store, and each week a Giant pharmacist will give them a $20 coupon for buying fresh fruit and vegetables from the store's produce department.
"Giant Food is excited to be bringing the Produce Rx program to our local Alabama Avenue store," Giant President Gordon Reid said in a statement. "As a food retailer, we recognize the important role we can play in the access to healthy foods and health education, and the program is certainly a natural fit with our ongoing efforts to support the health needs of the communities we serve."
According to DC Greens, Giant’s Alabama Avenue store will serve as the primary pharmacy and supermarket location for Produce Rx patients. The “food justice” nonprofit — part of DC Health, the District of Columbia’s health department — said the Giant location represents the only full-service grocery store in the district’s eighth ward. Besides the $20 coupon for produce, participating patients will also receive nutrition education from AmeriHealth Caritas and store tours from Giant’s on-site nutritionist.
"We believe that cross-sector partnerships are the only way to achieve health equity in our city," said Lauren Shweder Biel, executive director of DC Greens. "Doctors and patients both need more tools to address food insecurity and diet-related chronic illness. Through Produce Rx, our healthcare system can be a driver to get patients access to the healthy food that they want and need."
Plans call for the Produce Rx pilot to kick off at the Giant store in a produce-aisle launch event on April 24. Customers can renew Produce Rx prescriptions with their health providers throughout the program, which is slated to run until Dec. 31. The effort will begin with 500 AmeriHealth patients, with a goal of expanding the service to more individuals.
"Healthful food is essential to healthy people,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director at DC Health. “The Produce Prescription Program is part of DC Health's portfolio of innovative Healthful Food Access Initiatives, and these initiatives work together to meet individual and household food access needs while addressing gaps in the food environment in specific areas of our city.”
DC Greens said that after seven years of working with farmers markets across the city, the Produce Rx pilot marks a new phase in its formal partnership with Giant, AmeriHealth Caritas of Washington D.C. and DC Health. The program stands to further support local hunger relief efforts, nutrition counseling and access to healthy foods. Other food access initiatives supported DC Health include Joyful Food Markets, Produce Plus, Mobile Markets and Healthy Corner Stores.
"AmeriHealth Caritas DC is committed to helping our members, especially those with chronic health conditions, improve their overall health by adding more fruits and vegetables to their daily diet," stated Keith Maccannon, director of community relations and outreach at AmeriHealth Caritas DC, which serves more than 100,000 Medicaid recipients. "Collaboration with community-based organizations and businesses like DC Greens and Giant Food are a key component of our strategy in this area."
Part of Ahold Delhaize USA, Giant operates 164 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. Its stores include 154 full-service pharmacies.