MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Residents like Jesse Cook receive free medication and now, thanks to an innovative program dubbed Produce RX, he also receives prescriptions not dispensed in a bottle, but a box.

Crook has received free medication from Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy for five years and now he is given a box filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“It’s not just medicine. It’s food. You know food to help, to grow like bananas like potassium. These bananas have helped me,” said Crook.

Shearie Archer, Executive Director of Ozanam shows us what beautiful bounty patients receive here.

“You have your bananas. So you have your potassium. You have tomatoes. We have cabbage and we have cucumbers and these are nice cucumbers,” said Archer.

Ozanam and Franklin Primary Health Center identify patients at risk of chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. The American Heart Association and A Servant’s Love work to help patients who are also medically in danger of not having access to nutrition.

“The chronic illnesses are made worse by poor nutrition and a lot of our people that we serve are in need of just not nutrition but education on how to best care for themselves,” said Lisa Davis, co-founder of A Servant’s Love.

The non-profit provides food to those who can’t afford it. Her resources are vital to Produce RX. She and volunteers order the produce, gather, sort and pack boxes full of colorful nutrients to help pave the way for healthier habits. Each box is packed one by one by volunteers.

Co-founder of A Servant’s Love gathers food for Produce RX

“They have told us that they have been able to come off a medication maybe something, lower the dosage of their blood pressure medication. We have seen people say they have lost a few pounds. We have had some people say that they just feel better. Digestion is better,” said Davis.

“It goes hand in hand, medication and food. Food is medication. It is the first medication and then medication enhances what our body takes in and that’s why this produce is important to us and our patients,” said Archer.

This healthy hand-up is strategically offered in the middle of each month when funds tend to run low for some families. This is a mission dear to the American Heart Association’s Evan Duffy, Director of Health Strategies.

“I’ve been in that position before myself. I was laid off in 2005 with a child and had to figure out how to feed my family and a lot of times the decisions I had to make were to fill their bellies. A lot of times those were things that were not necessarily nutritious for them,” said Duffy.

American Heart Association’s Director of Health Strategies, Evan Duffy working with Davis and Archer to distribute boxes of produce

Crook is excited to see how quickly Produce RX is making a difference.

“By me taking these, eating these bananas. It’s helped me come off one of my medications and I thank God for it,” said Crook.

This is the fourth month, Produce RX has provided more than 100 patients with a free box of produce.
This is a one-year pilot program funded by The Community Foundation of South Alabama. More funding will be needed for it to continue.

For more information on Produce RX by contacting the American Heart Association at HAGulfCoast@heart.org. To learn how you can volunteer your time or donate to A Servant’s Love, click here.