Tomatoes are sold at the Toledo Farmers Market in Iowa. A new Veggie Prescription Program aims to combat diet-related diseases with fresh fruits and vegetables. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

A new program will launch Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in Johnson County, Iowa, to fight diet-related diseases with fresh fruits and vegetables.

The initiative involves a partnership with the Coralville Community Food Pantry, North Liberty Community Pantry, University of Iowa Health Care and local farmers, supported by a $50,000 grant from MidWestOne Bank to help nonprofits connect low-income patients with healthy, locally grown food.

Learn more about the program from John Boller, executive director of the Coralville Community Food Pantry:

JOHNSON COUNTY, IA – A nationally competitive $50,000 grant made possible by MidWestOne Bank has been awarded to a collection of Johnson County community organizations to create The Veggie Rx Pilot Program in an effort to fight diet-related diseases with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Local leaders from the Coralville Community Food Pantry, North Liberty Community Pantry, University of Iowa Health Care’s Upstream Clinic, Johnson County’s Local Foods Coordinator, and several local farmers are teaming up to launch the Veggie Rx Pilot Program.

This first-of-its-kind collaboration in the state of Iowa is designed to help low-income individuals facing diet-related health issues. This program will directly aid in improving the health of its participants through routine access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, individualized dietary guidance, and engaging educational activities related to growing, preparing, and eating healthy foods. The fresh produce will be purchased directly from local farms to be distributed to up to 40 participants enrolled in the 26 week program, as well as stock the Coralville and North Liberty Food Pantries with high quality, nutrient dense food. The impact of the participants newly complete diet will be tracked and analyzed by medical professionals and medical students from the UIHC’s Upstream Clinic.

“This program can help coach and empower individuals in healthier habits while making food appropriate resources more identifiable and accessible for food pantry clients and our patients at the community, home, and daily life level,” notes Dr. Craig Syrop, Professor Emeritus with University of Iowa Health Care, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“MidWestOne continues to find new and innovative ways to support our community. As such, we are delighted to lend our support to the Veggie Rx Program,” says MidWestOne Bank CEO Charlie Funk. “We look forward to working with an established group of community health advocates and we are confident this will provide a lasting impact on the overall health of our community.”

Health screenings will begin this fall to determine eligibility for the Veggie Rx Pilot Program with the goal to begin distributing weekly vegetable “prescriptions” by April 2020.

A sign notes the vegetables being sold at the Toledo, Iowa, Farmers Market. Fresh fruits and vegetables will be used to combat diet-related diseases in a new program in Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)