The Health Department today announced the expansion of its Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions program to give low-income New Yorkers with high blood pressure a “prescription” for fruits and vegetables. The first of its kind in the nation, Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions partners with pharmacies to issue $30 a month in Health Bucks, the Health Department’s $2 coupons that can be used to purchase products at a nearby farmers market, to people with a doctor’s prescription to treat high blood pressure. Over $80,000 in Health Bucks has been distributed to over 850 participants through the program. To participate in the program, individuals must receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and fill a prescription for high blood pressure medication at a partnering independent pharmacy. Eating fruits and vegetables every day can lower your risk of heart disease and some cancers. In New York City, 1 in 4 adults has high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, a leading cause of death.
“The food we eat really can change our health. That’s what makes it so unjust that people’s access to healthy food is influenced by their income,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We’re making it easier for New Yorkers who need it most to afford more fresh produce. This is good for New Yorkers’ wallets and good for their health.”
The pilot, which first launched in 2017 at 3 pharmacies and grew to 10 pharmacies in 2018, will now expand to 16 drugstores. Among individuals currently enrolled in the program, 71% are female, 52% are Latino, 96% are over 45, and 36% have less than a high school degree. Additionally, 61% of participants worried about having enough food to eat in the past 30 days, and 80% agreed or somewhat agreed that fruits and vegetables cost too much.
The following pharmacies are now part of the Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions program:
- Brooklyn Center Pharmacy at 104 Dekalb Ave., 11201 in Downtown Brooklyn
- Myrtle Drug Care at 355 Myrtle Ave., 11205 in Fort Greene
- Park Drugs at 801 Nostrand Ave., 11225 in Crown Heights
- Whitman Pharmacy at 329A Myrtle Ave., 11205 in Fort Greene
- Drug Mart II at 4873 Broadway, 10034 in Inwood
- Dyckman Pharmacy at 199 Dyckman St, 10040 in Inwood
- Nagle Pharmacy at 210 Nagle Ave., 10034 in Inwood
- New Amsterdam Drug Mart at 698 Amsterdam Ave., 10025 on the Upper West Side
- New London Pharmacy at 246 8th Ave., 10011 in Chelsea
- New York City Pharmacy at 206 1st Ave., 10009 in East Village
- NuCare Pharmacy & Surgical at 250 9th Ave., 10001 in Chelsea
- Quick RX UWS at 909 Columbus Ave., 10025 on the Upper West Side
- Image Heights Pharmacy at 7501 37th Ave., 11372 in Jackson Heights
- Jannat Pharmacy at 7203 35th Ave., 11372 in Jackson Heights
- Nueva Vida Pharmacy at 81-25 37th Ave., 11372 in Jackson Heights
- Superior Pharmacy at 80-05 Roosevelt Ave., 11372 in Jackson Heights
A full list of farmers markets that accept Health Bucks is available here.
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“Supporting easier access to healthy eating options is a top priority of the Fund for Public Health in New York City,” said Sara Gardner, Executive Director Fund for Public Health of New York City. “We are pleased to partner on this important work to combat hypertension in neighborhoods across the city.”
“GrowNYC is delighted to be part of this innovate program, expanding access to the freshest fruits and vegetables for our neighbors with diet-related conditions,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, President and CEO of GrowNYC. “This initiative has successfully introduced community members to their neighborhood farmers market, connecting them to this important resource for fresh food and simple, healthy recipes. We want to see small family farms thrive, and all residents, regardless of income, have affordable access to the foods they need to be healthy.”
“I’ve often said that when it comes to some chronic diseases, it’s not our DNA, it’s our dinner. A healthy diet can actually reverse many diseases, where medication may just manage them. My own health journey is a testament to that. When I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2016, I completely overhauled my lifestyle and used a whole-food, plant-based diet to reverse my diabetes and lose 35 pounds. The Pharmacy to Farm Prescription program will give people another tool in their toolbox to seize control of their health, and reveal the transformative power of fresh produce,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“The Pharmacy to Farm Program is an excellent example of how inventive policy-makers can make a huge impact on the health of New Yorkers by thinking outside of the box,” said uptown City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine. “We need to utilize all prescriptive options available to us as we take on diet-related health epidemics in this city, and providing New Yorkers with more access to healthy food, especially those who may lack the means to obtain them, is at the core of our efforts to combat these devastating diseases.”
“It’s truly amazing that in the greatest city in the world, our families, particularly those who need some help, can rest assured their city will support their healthy eating habits,” said Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo. “This program is not only generous but promotes healthy living and connecting communities with our thriving farmers’ markets.”
“I am delighted to welcome the Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions program to my district,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Now low-income Jackson Heights and Elmhurst residents with high blood pressure will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at no cost to them. This is will have a tremendous positive impact on their physical and financial well being. I thank the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for prioritizing and expanding this important work.”
“This is a great program that provides New Yorkers struggling with high blood pressure access to healthy and nutritious food options,” said uptown Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “This also addresses the growing issue related to obesity affecting our communities. We need to make sure we increase the availability to healthier food options and ensure that New Yorkers are able to afford them.”
“Patients have been thrilled to hear about the opportunity to extend their food budget and buy more fruits and vegetables,” said Ali Yasin, Supervising Pharmacist and Owner of New York City Pharmacy in the East Village, Manhattan. “From my daily interactions with patients, I can see that this program encourages patients with high blood pressure to eat healthier and pick up their medication on a regular basis, which is often particularly challenging for patients who struggle with low incomes.”
“Many patients have shared that this program has exposed them to new fruits and vegetables they’ve never tasted before, and they really enjoy shopping at the farmers markets,” said Cheng Lin, Supervising Pharmacist and Owner of Whitman Pharmacy in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
“We are excited to partner with the Health Department to expand our patient care services and offer this program to our customers,” said Nishad Hoque, Supervising Pharmacist of Jannat Pharmacy in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“For me, the Pharmacy to Farm program is a three-way ‘win-win-win,’” said Ede R., a program participant at New London Pharmacy in Chelsea. “It benefits New Yorkers receiving SNAP benefits who have hypertension with $30 of monthly coupons for fresh vegetables and fruit at any GreenMarket in the city year-round. This helps to improve overall health and can be an introduction to produce previously unaffordable – in variety, quantity and quality. At the same time local farmers and neighborhood pharmacies (not chain stores) are gaining more customers – critical to the financial health of small businesses and farms. It’s one of the reasons why it’s great to live in New York!”
“I think the program is fabulous. It gives me an opportunity to shop more for healthy, fresh produce,” said Beryl B., a program participant at Whitman Pharmacy in Fort Greene.
In 2005 the New York City Health Department started the Health Bucks program, one of the first fruit and vegetable incentive programs in the United States. With one in five New Yorkers receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, the Health Bucks program fills a critical need by extending limited food dollars and providing more fresh fruits and vegetables to those who need them the most. In 2018, all 142 farmers markets across the five boroughs – 60% of which were located in high-poverty neighborhoods – accepted Health Bucks. Over the last 14 years, New Yorkers have used Health Bucks to purchase more than $5 million worth of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions program is supported in part with funding from The New York Community Trust, the Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, and by the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in partnership with the Fund for Public Health in New York City.
To sign up for Pharmacy to Farm Prescriptions, visit a participating pharmacy, which can be located on the Health Bucks page.