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Effectiveness of the Fresh Rx Program in Food Bank Clients with Obesity, Diabetes, and Hypertension

Effectiveness of the Fresh Rx Program in Food Bank Clients with Obesity, Diabetes, and Hypertension

Leslie Lauck

Nutritional Sciences

The purpose of this evaluation was to determine the impact of the Fresh Rx program of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma on clients with obesity, hypertension, and/or diabetes. In collaboration with two low income clinics, 120 food bank clients who were diagnosed with obesity, hypertension, and/or diabetes were recruited to participate in the Fresh Rx Program for 9 months. The program combined access to healthy food through free mobile markets at the clinics, nutrition and lifestyle education, and access to medical care with the goal of improving health outcomes for low-income, food-insecure populations. Responses to a five to ten minute survey, developed by the evaluators, and clinical data provided by the clinics were used to assess the effectiveness of the program. The survey was distributed three times throughout the intervention. Clinical data were collected by clinic staff monthly to measure changes in Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, and hemoglobin A1c in clients. Fresh Rx program evaluation results showed that the program assisted participants in becoming food secure, increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and improved participants’ perceptions of their health and control over their health. Reports on overall satisfaction with the program were overwhelmingly positive. However, reported intake of fruits and vegetables and clinical measures of body weight, blood pressure, and diabetes control were not improved. About 90% of participants were overweight or obese, with a BMI of 37.0+9.7 at baseline. There was no significant change in BMI from October to May. The average hemoglobin A1c value of participants was 8.2%, which showed no significant change over time. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements reflected a slight increase; however there were no significant changes. The average systolic blood pressure remained at about 140 mm Hg throughout the program. The Fresh Rx program combined food distribution, nutrition education, and health screenings as an effective way to positively influence the food insecurity of low-income, food-insecure individuals with chronic diseases. Potential improvements on program focus, intensity of nutrition education, and adjustments to content could improve the impact of the Fresh Rx program on clinical measures.