Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force Quickly Responds During COVID-19 Outbreak in Administering its Food Prescription Program

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is helping food insecure diabetics continue to access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

COVID-19 has impacted all of us personally and professionally. It’s forced almost all people and organizations to improvise and adjust.

The Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force (IHRTF) is no exception. As an Idaho-based nonprofit that aims to eliminate hunger in the state, the task force has some innovative programs and ideas on how to accomplish its mission.

One of those programs is the Prescription for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (RxforFFV) that connects people who are food insecure and diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes with fresh fruits and vegetables. The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health currently is partnering with IHRTF to evaluate the program, which works this way:

  • The Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force partners with medical providers to administer a nationally validated questionnaire regarding food insecurity to patients
  • Doctors can refer patients to the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force RxforFFV program based on questionnaire responses
  • The Task Force works with referred patients and provides them vouchers to be used at certain stores and vendors to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables at no cost to the patient
  • The RxforFFV program is 16 weeks in length and includes monthly check-ins with patients who are participating, as well as a blood test that shows how the effective the program was for the patient

COVID-19 has forced IHRTF to change how it administers the RxforFFV.

“Understanding that those with diabetes are one of the groups at higher risk when contracting COVID-19, we have eliminated direct person-to-person contact,” IHRTF Executive Director Kathy Gardner said. “We have had contact, by phone, with every current participant to ensure they have their RxforFFV vouchers for the next month. We are now mailing the vouchers through tracked mail rather than in-person delivery.”

Gardner said the post-program survey is also being done via telephone. She also is communicating with participating vendors during this time when many grocery stores are overwhelmed by what’s happening as a result of the pandemic.

“We have to be sensitive to their busy schedules,” she said.

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation provided a small grant to support these changes to the program and extend access to the RxforFFV vouchers for another month. This extension would include fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers, tracked mail, post-survey response collection, and A1C testing.

“Flexibility and support to be innovative in pursuing program implementation and outcomes are important,” Gardner said. “Things are unfolding and changing so quickly.”