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Doctors write kids prescriptions for vegetables

Doctors in White Bear Lake are giving children prescriptions hoping they will live healthier lives.
Vegetables at the grocery store - Stock Photo

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. - There are prescriptions for all kinds of children's medications, but what if the doctor handed a prescription to your child for vegetables?

Some are betting it would gain attention and that is the whole point.

In an effort to combat obesity, Health Partners and Children's Hospitals and Clinics have a pilot program in the White Bear Lake area in which doctors are writing prescriptions for vegetables during well child visits for five to 12-year-old children.

Dr. Elsa Keeler, a pediatrician at Health Partners Clinic in White Bear Lake, is one of those writing the prescriptions. She said she doesn't write them based on a child's weight. Instead, she said, "I'll ask parents, 'Are you happy with how many fruits and vegetables your children are eating?' Or I'll ask the children if they think they could do a little bit better at home and if they say, 'Yes,' we pull out the prescription and we have a conversation around it."

The prescriptions are actually $10 vouchers for produce. Keeler said they are a great tool for families.

Christine Laska's kids were given one.

"They were pretty excited about it because it was an opportunity for them to go to the grocery store and actually pick out what they wanted to put in the cart," she said.

Festival Foods in Hugo is one of five grocery stores taking the vouchers.

Director of fresh produce Rodney Borden said his store will soon also have a checkout lane that's junk food free.

"Instead of picking a salty snack or a candy bar, they'd be able to pick up single size apples, bananas, healthier granola bars," he explained.

It's an option any parent who has had a child begging for candy will appreciate. It also makes it easier to make healthy choices.

Keeler recommends everyone get at least five servings of vegetables and fruit a day. She tells kids that their taste buds change, "So each time you try something new you don't know if you're going to like it until you try it."

She said by giving these prescriptions, she's helping parents and kids take their nutrition to the next level.

The veggie prescription program is part of a larger effort called Bear Power. Bear Power is an effort by White Bear Lake Schools, the YMCA, Health Partners Clinics, Children's Hospitals and Clinics and retail like Festival Foods to create a healthy community in the White Bear Lake and Hugo area.

Once 100 prescriptions are issued, the veggie prescription program will be evaluated. If successful, it could be expanded.