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New Program Prescribes Veggies Over Medicine to Combat Childhood Obesity in Louisville

A new program underway in Louisville is working to combat childhood obesity and related diseases by providing prescriptions for fresh produce, rather than medicine.The first “Veggie Rx” class started last month, and nine families are taking part. The six-week program includes hands-on cooking classes, discussions on nutrition and food justice and physical fitness. And every participant gets six weeks of free produce.The program is run by New Roots, a local non-profit that also runs Fresh Stops around Louisville. The Fresh Stops provide local produce on a sliding scale to communities that might otherwise have limited access.New Roots Executive Director Karyn Moskowitz says Veggie Rx has the potential to change a family’s eating habits, and address health problems at the core.“We see this as a huge leap forward, especially for practitioners who have been prescribing medication very often for the symptoms of diet-related illnesses,” she said.“What we’re saying is let’s swim upstream together and be able to prescribe food as medicine and prescribe five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, in order to prevent having diet-related illnesses in the first place.”The program is open to all families, but a main caregiver must commit to attending six consecutive weeks of two-hour classes. Each family also must have one child between the ages of 6 and 13, though older and younger children are also welcome to attend.After the six-week program is over, Moskowitz says the hope is that families keep participating in Fresh Stops and buying local produce.“So not only are we introducing them to our hands-on cooking class and physical fitness, but we’re introducing them to the whole Fresh Stop concept and the Fresh Stop community,” she said.Also needed are volunteers to adopt and mentor program participants, helping them learn cooking skills. A $75 donation allows one family to keep its cooking equipment.A new class will start October 13, and Moskowitz has roomfor 20 families.