A Prescription for Good Health: The North Country Produce Prescription Program

The North Country Produce Prescription Project (NC FVRx) will address rural community food access and nutrition insecurity through a six-county regional program funded by a Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Produce Prescription Program grant and SNAP-Ed NY, aimed at reducing barriers to fresh produce while improving healthy food preparation knowledge and health equity for low-income individuals and families in rural Northern NY. The burden of household nutrition insecurity is not distributed equally, but disproportionately high in rural low-access areas. This program, expanding on a small-but-successful pilot in 2021, ensures healthy foods get into the homes and onto the plates of those who need them most. Over the three-year lifespan of this project, 1,080 referral "prescriptions" will be made by healthcare providers for qualifying patients to attend 6 weekly nutrition workshops. For each workshop they attend, they will receive a $25 prescription voucher (up to a total value of $150 in fresh produce) redeemable with participating local producers and retail markets in each county. This equates to $162,000 in total food support. Through the combination of incentivized produce and hands-on nutrition education and food demonstrations, 75% of program graduates will show improved knowledge and behavior changes, increased consumption of produce, and reduced food insecurity, evidenced by pre and post-surveys. One year later, 60% of participants will demonstrate continued improved dietary health through consistent consumption of produce aligned with recommended dietary guidelines as evidenced by self-reported and healthcare provider surveys. In addition to improved dietary health and food resource management, the overall impact of this project will be lower chronic disease-related patient visits resulting in decreased healthcare costs and lower rates of chronic disease across the region.

Roles and responsibilities 

  1. Attend Nutrition staff meetings and partner outreach and technical support meetings as needed.
  2. Shadow experienced SNAP-Ed nutrition educators at weekly workshops and other community events.
  3. Complete Human Subjects online training on IRB protocols and ethical data collection.
  4. Assist educators with food demonstrations, market tours, and nutrition education at farmers markets and other community locations in Jefferson and Lewis Counties, using SNAP-approved educational materials and resources provided through the Nutrition Incentive Hub/Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. Please note, student will be required to attend outdoor markets and community events which operate on weekdays and weekends during a range of hours, including some evenings. Most programming will occur during regular business hours.
  5. Assist Project Director and other staff with some survey data collection, primarily through phone interviews with referred participants as well as firm-level project partners.
  6. Update and develop new educational and promotional materials focusing on chronic disease prevention and management as well as local foods and food resource management, including food storage and preservation methods.
  7. Develop market maps and other promotional materials to highlight participating local producers and other retail redemption sites for NC FVRx voucher redemption, EBT, and other food resource benefits.
  8. Assist with communication with referred project participants to send reminders about workshops, and redemption sites, and to provide education and resources between workshops.
  9. Contribute nutrition and local food systems content for traditional and social media use. 
  10. Research other produce prescription programs and best practices, particularly those used in rural settings, and provide recommendations to nutrition staff for program improvements. 

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

A successful intern will have an interest in public health and community nutrition, experience working with diverse, limited-resource audiences, and will have some basic nutrition, food preparation, and local food systems knowledge.

Learning outcomes 

  1. Describe the purpose and importance of produce prescription programs such as NC FVRx.
  2. Demonstrate effective community nutrition education at farmers markets and other community locations, paying particular attention to health literacy and accessibility for this low-income target audience.  
  3. Prepare recipes for food demonstrations and sampling using proper food safety guidelines and locally grown, in-season produce.  
  4. Collect relevant data for SNAP-Ed and the Gus NIP grant.
  5. Identify and develop needed local foods and food benefits promotional materials.  
  6. Propose opportunities for collaborative improvement in NC FVRx outreach efforts.