Fresh fruits and vegetables matter.
Research has shown that with many diseases, including cancer, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart and lung disease, the consumption of fruits and vegetables play a large role as preventative medicine. While treatment for diabetes is a tough pill to swallow (often involving many, many pills), the way to prevent the disease in the first place requires, in part, eating more nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Primary care can start at home in our kitchen, by feeding ourselves, and loved ones, more fruits and vegetables. However, good public policy measures must be in place to ensure that families and people living on limited incomes can live a life with good health through access to nutritious, fresh food. Otherwise, people living in poverty will continue to be disproportionately burdened by diet-related, preventable diseases.
Maine Harvest Bucks incentivizes the purchase of more fruits and vegetables by families receiving SNAP/EBT benefits. With Maine Harvest Bucks, not only are people able to eat more fruits and vegetables, but they’re spending their SNAP/EBT dollars locally at farmers’ markets. Farmers’ market food is of a different quality than what is available at the grocery store. Produce at farmers’ markets is harvested hours before it is sold to the shopper, rather than days or weeks at the grocery store. The nutritional content of fruits and vegetables dramatically decreases as it transitions from fresh-picked to 3 weeks old and sitting in the fridge.
Thus, if we’re looking at food as medicine, then, some of the best medicine is found at farmers’ markets (unless, of course, you grow your own!).
A majority of Maine voters just cast their support to expand Medicaid access to 70,000 more low-income Mainers, which is a major victory for people who cannot afford healthcare in our state. This expansion also provides relief for Maine hospitals that provide over $100 million in charity care each year to our neighbors in need. Maine Harvest Bucks costs less than 1% of the $100 million spent on charity care in Maine, and the health benefits from the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables will yield long-term healthcare savings, further decreasing the burden on our hospitals. Maine Harvest Bucks is good business-sense and good public policy.
MFFM is working to make sure that fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, via Maine Harvest Bucks, earns its proper place as an effective public health policy for low-income Mainers who participate in SNAP.