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Johnson County “Veggies RX” pilot program looks to reduce diseases, ailments through diet

JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) — A handful of Iowans will soon get a new type of prescription to help them battle ailments like Diabetes and Cholesterol, a vegetable prescription.

It’s part of a Johnson County Pilot Program called “Veggies RX” that was kick-started thanks to a $50,000 community impact grant through Midwest One Bank.

With the presentation of the check, a collaborative project between local food pantries such as North Liberty and Coralville Community Food Pantry, Famers such as Sundog Farms, and Upstream Medical and UIHC mobile clinic is a go.

Kaila Rome, North Liberty Community Pantry’s executive director explains the idea, “The same way a doctor prescribes medications, they follow-up, they do different tests and make sure that the prescriptions are working. So it’s sort of a really similar idea that we want to provide a tailored prescription of health food, and give them the tools.”

The pilot program came after these partners noticed trends during wellness checks at the local Johnson County food pantries.

“What they found is that more than 50% of people had some sort of diet modifiable disease and this was elevated from Iowans at large,” said Joyce Wahba, an executive coordinator for UIHC’s medical clinic, “for example they found that there is a higher level of diabetes, higher level of ER visits since a lot of these people have barriers to access healthcare.”

“A lot of the families that we survey, they are asking for more fresh vegetables. They’re asking for more tools to prepare those things and resources to know how to prepare healthy foods,” said Rome.

The nutrient-rich vegetables at the Sundog Farm in Solon have the potential to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduce someone’s BMI.

A focus of this program will be tracking that data for those chosen to participate.

“This is part of a larger research study looking at 200 patients, tracking them over the course of the year, and tracking them at 0, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months,” said Wahba.

It’s also a plus for farmer. Now they’ won’t just be giving the pantries their leftovers. The pantries can now invest in the farms with a CSA, like a stakeholder or Co-Op.

“We’ll be able to continue farming and do so while making an income, while also providing vegetables to communities that wouldn’t always get them,” said Maja Black of Sundog Farms.

The participants will be chosen on a lottery basis but must meet certain criteria.

Both the North Liberty and Coralville Food Pantries will soon announce when they’ll hold the wellness screening to apply.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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