CADILLAC — Talk about a win-win: not only does a program offered by MSU Extension provide valuable tips on cooking and eating healthier, it also gives out $100 worth of fruits and vegetables to all attendees.
Residents of Crawford, Missaukee, Manistee, and Wexford counties can now receive a prescription for free fruits and vegetables, as well as access to free virtual nutrition education through the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program.
According to a joint press release issued last week, the program is funded through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, designed specifically to support individual and community health and is made possible by several partners including District Health Department No. 10, Munson Healthcare, and Michigan State University Extension.
The program is based on a successful pilot program from Washtenaw County and came to Northern Michigan several years ago. It has since expanded several times to include new communities across the region.
In prior years, the program has been offered in-person at farmer’s markets around the region, but since the onset of COVID-19, it has transitioned to a virtual platform to ensure the health and safety of participants and educators.
“Offering online, nutrition education classes has been a great way for MSU Extension to continue serving our communities and has allowed us to broaden the scope of what and how we offer programming," said Caitlin Lorenc, MSU Extension community nutrition instructor. "Due to COVID-19, folks aren’t able to interact with each other as they normally would. The combination of the virtual classes and the fruit and vegetable program has created a platform where community residents are still able to learn and engage with others. MSU Extension may be doing the teaching, but we are all learning from each other.‘
The virtual nutrition education series is a six-session live class taught by MSU Extension community nutrition instructors covering topics such as cooking for one, everyday strategies to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into meals, and enjoying daily movement.
"Many participants have shared with us how they’re changing their lifestyles including limiting or removing pop from their diets, trying and enjoying a new healthy recipe, or adding an extra 10 minutes to their fitness program," the press release states.
Following the education series, participants receive up to $100 in vouchers for purchasing fruits and vegetables through local vendors and markets to put into practice the knowledge they have gained.
Classes are scheduled through March of 2021. Interested persons can receive a referral through various local public and health agencies doctors’ offices or by contacting the program directly.