South L.A. Doctors Write Prescriptions for Produce


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Hispanics make up almost two-thirds of people living in South Los Angeles, a community where chronic disease rates are high and fresh, affordable food is hard to find. A partnership between a family health clinic and a local non-profited focused on getting folks good food has led to doctors at the clinic writing prescriptions for a new kind of medicine: fresh fruits and vegetables.

St. John’s Well Child and Family Center has partnered with Community Services Unlimited to run weekly produce stands at two of its sites for patients, families and clinic staff. Besides making healthy food available, doctors are writing their patients “prescriptions” to purchase the produce. The prescriptions reinforce the fact that diet can be as important as medication when it comes to feeling better.

St. John’s nutritionist Ivy Marx said the stands are especially important in South Los Angeles, where rates of chronic disease are high and fresh food is hard to find. About 70% of the St. John’s adult patients are obese or overweight, and only 11% of adults eat the daily recommended fruits and vegetables, according to clinic data.

On the first day of the new season, customers could choose celery, strawberries, garlic, mangoes, kale, lemons and other produce.

Sonia Herrera, 50, brought her niece, Rosa Navas, to the clinic for a physical. The doctor told Herrera that the 3-year-old weighed more than she should. “She told us we have to give her more fruits, vegetables and water,” Herrera said. On her way out, Herrera stopped and bought her niece bananas and a basket of strawberries.

Herrera, like many others, has taken advantage of the convenient produce stand to make sure that children in L.A. get the fruits and vegetables they need to stay healthy and happy.

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