‘Prescription’ for fruits, vegetables city’s next remedy in battle against obesity

By Casey Tolan and Larry Mcshane

Take two tomatoes and call me in the morning.

City officials unveiled a new get-healthy program July 23 where doctors will “prescribe” a menu of fresh fruits and vegetables to patients battling obesity.

“This is probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term than the medicines we tend to write prescriptions for,” said New York Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) will debut at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital in upper Manhattan, with the city also providing coupons to offset the cost of the produce.

Dr. Katherine Szema, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln, said the program aims to get parents and their kids to eat at least one more serving of fruits or vegetables each day.

“Kids usually kind of dread coming to the doctor to talk about their obesity,” she said. “But this is a positive thing. They look forward to it.”

Tammy Futch, who lives in the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven, said the program was a huge success for her shrinking, 11-year-old son, Ty-J.

“My son lost 20 pounds,” said Futch, one of Szema’s patients. “He was one that never ate vegetables. He used to be a McDonald’s baby.”

Ty-J said his fast-food favorites were replaced with beets, corn, carrots, strawberries and avocados.

“Some of them taste good,” he said. “Others . . . ehhhhh.”

According to Farley, about one in 10 New Yorkers don’t eat any fruits or vegetables in a given day. But in the Bronx, that number is a shocking five in 10 adults.

Farley cited an assortment of diet-related illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke that the obese face.

To encourage the purchase of fruits and vegetables, participants can receive “Health Bucks” coupons to spend at any of the city’s 142 farmers’ markets.

Both Harlem Hospital Center and Lincoln Medical Center feature on-site markets.

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