Highlighted Project: Veggie RX

Veggie RX: A community-based participatory evaluation of a produce "prescription" program

Food insecurity is pervasive throughout the Columbia Gorge area. In fact, a 2015 survey found that nearly half of all residents receive some form of food assistance, a third report worrying about running out of food and 15% have actually run out of food in the past month.

Gorge Grown Food Network’s Veggie Rx is an innovative fruit and vegetable prescription program designed to alleviate food insecurity and increase the intake of fresh produce in the Gorge. The program empowers health care and social service providers to “prescribe” vouchers to people who screen positive for food insecurity. Vouchers are used to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. 

The Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CORE) partnered with The Next Door, Inc. on a community-based participatory evaluation aimed at understanding the program’s impacts and opportunities for improvement.  

Key Findings 

  • Veggie Rx increased food security and improved nutritional intake 
  • Better nutrition led to improvements in self-reported physical health 
  • Improved food security and better nutrition improved self-reported mental health 
  • Participants faced some stigma at local grocery stores 
  • Veggie Rx has the potential for regional economic impact 

Several important themes emerged from this research. In addition to improved nutrition, participants felt that going to farmer’s markets brought a deeper connection to their community. They felt pride in supporting local farmers and teaching their children where food comes from. However, while food insecurity is chronic for many people in Oregon, it also can bring stigma. Participants were not always comfortable conversing with their health or social service providers. 

These findings show that while Veggie Rx is not the solution for food insecurity, when combined with other efforts, programs like this can ease hunger, create community, and provide long-term health benefits. 

“I used to avoid the veggie aisle because I couldn’t afford it.”  - Participant

“My kids came with me to the market…they are learning that food doesn’t come from the refrigerator. My son got to try a fresh peach for the first time.” - Participant

Research approach 

  • Community-based participatory research 
  • Focus groups in English and Spanish 
  • Photovoice methodology 
  • October 2015 - January 2016 

CORE conducted a series of focus groups using the photovoice methodology to learn about participants’ experiences with the program. Photovoice is a visual research method in which research participants take photographs that represent their experiences. The photos serve as conversation starters within the focus group setting. Over the one-month study period, we conducted six focus groups with participants: three in English and three in Spanish. 

Research publications & other resources

Research partners 

  • The Next Door, Inc. 
  • Bianca Fernandez, Community Health Worker 
  • Leticia Valle, Community Health Worker 
  • Elizur Bello, Program Director & Community Health Worker 


Gorge Grown Food Network 


For more information, contact core@providence.org 

Previous Article
Highlighted Project: The LIFE Experiences Study
Highlighted Project: The LIFE Experiences Study

The goal of the LIFE experience study was to explore the connections between life experiences and health ou...

Next Article
Highlighted Project: Oregon Coordinated Care Organization Case Studies
Highlighted Project: Oregon Coordinated Care Organization Case Studies

Read CORE's case studies on two of Oregon's Coordinated Care Organizations.