Spring 2022

Food is medicine

See how M Health Fairview clinics and hospitals are “prescribing” access to free, locally grown food for patients experiencing food insecurity

It might come as a surprise, but some M Health Fairview care providers agree with the age-old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

They’re even giving out free apples.

In addition to providing a full spectrum of routine and specialized care, providers at several M Health Fairview clinics and hospitals across Minnesota also “prescribe” patients who are experiencing food insecurity access to free, locally grown food. Once a week during Minnesota’s growing season, enrolled patients stop by their clinic and receive a box of fresh produce grown by farmers in the region.

The initiative, known as Veggie Rx, was launched about six years ago by the M Health Fairview Community Advancement team and served a handful of families at a single clinic. Now, the program is in 10 clinics across the state, reliably providing produce to more than 1,000 patients each year, and is sustained by philanthropy.

According to the Wilder Foundation, in 2020, nearly 37% of Minnesotans were food insecure, lacked access to healthy foods, or did not have the resources to buy food for their households.

Veggie Rx represents just one element of a growing M Health Fairview commitment to address those barriers to good health and nutrition.

As Veggie Rx has grown, so too have related initiatives. Together, M Health Fairview food access programs are reducing food insecurity and helping more Minnesotans manage and prevent chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes.

“As an anchor institution rooted in our communities, we have a responsibility to use our expertise and resources to address the root causes of poor health and health inequities,” says John Swanholm, vice president of Community Advancement.

Make a gift to support Veggie Rx and other M Health Fairview community advancement programs at give.umn.edu/giveto/community.

See how M Health Fairview teams are getting fresh, healthy food to the Minnesotans who need it most.



Locally grown
Veggie Rx partners with Minnesota farmers–including those from the Hmong American Farmers Association, Sin Fronteras Farm and Food, and the Women’s Environmental Institute–to provide healthy food and meal ingredients to patients in the metro area and in central Minnesota.


Produce prescription
Patients are referred to Veggie Rx based on their medical and social histories or if they show signs of food insecurity or conditions like malnutrition, iron and vitamin deficiencies, or diabetes that could improve with a healthier diet. And the program is working: Follow-up data have shown a reduction in food insecurity and emergency department visits, as well as an increase in patients who said they felt in good health.


Food on demand
Sometimes, patients show up to their appointment in need of healthy food that day. That’s why some M Health Fairview clinics are equipped with boxes of shelf-stable food (like rice, canned vegetables, and soup) provided by MATTER, a Twin Cities nonprofit organization. These boxes contain enough healthy food to feed a family of four for three days. They even come with recipe suggestions and nutrition education.


Mobile meals
When local farms shut down for the season, Veggie Rx participants receive vouchers for the Twin Cities Mobile Market, a grocery store on wheels that delivers healthy food directly to neighborhoods across the metro area.


Home delivery
A collaboration with local nonprofits, the M Health Fairview Community Cooks Meal Box program will provide more than half a million make-at-home meals for community members in 2022. Much like HelloFresh or Blue Apron, these meal kit boxes are delivered weekly and include the ingredients and recipes needed to make multiple culturally relevant meals.


Wellness hub
The Fairview Community Health and Wellness Hub is slated to open later this year in the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul. It will have a food distribution center co-led by several community organizations, including Second Harvest Heartland and the Sanneh Foundation.