The Fresh Connect Debit Card Allows Doctors to Prescribe Healthy Foods



The Fresh Connect Debit Card Allows Doctors to Prescribe Healthy Foods

Fresh Connect is helping prevent and treat disease for people who cannot afford healthy food.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss




The Fresh Connect Mission

Improve health outcomes by giving healthy food to those who need it most.




"We're trying to care for people before they get sick."

Josh Trautwein, co-founder and CEO of About Fresh, the parent organization of Fresh Truck and the Fresh Connect food prescription program.



Fresh Connect is a food prescription program under the auspices of the Boston-based nonprofit About Fresh. It partners with providers, insurers, and community-based organizations that can prescribe Fresh Connect prepaid debit cards to eligible food-insecure patients.


Facilitating access to food as medicine has been part of Trautwein's vision since the first Fresh Truck took to the streets in 2013. He retrofitted school buses bringing fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to Boston neighborhoods where residents needed help accessing them.

When a patient experiencing food insecurity and an illness like diabetes comes to a clinic or hospital, their doctor might give them a prescription for fruit and vegetables. Healthcare professionals also provide baseline health indicators and enroll their patients in the program. In addition, the Fresh Connect team mails participants their prepaid debit cards.

The doctor determines the amount of money to be loaded onto the card each month, how long the patient will participate in the program, and what foods will qualify under the card's rules.

Fresh Connect is the name of the debit card, and it can automatically recognize fruit and vegetables when someone checks out at a store. The program helps prevent and treat disease and helps people who struggle to afford healthy food.






"The reason healthcare needs to get in the game, driving billions of dollars of avoidable costs, is because people don't have the money in the bank to afford all the foods they need."

- Josh Trautwein



SNAP, the federal food benefits program, is a lifeline for low-income Americans, but it doesn't often do enough.

The nonprofit started as a grassroots organization with a retrofitted school bus bringing produce to Boston's food deserts. But it wanted also to help scale up access to healthy food.

Patients use debit cards as frequently as needed to buy healthy foods at participating retailers, including grocery stores, mobile markets, farmer's markets, restaurants, and online. The debit card works with the standard payment processing system used by retailers.

The underlying platform, which is HIPAA-compliant, can track the transaction data. Hence, it's possible to analyze potential impacts on health.



Building on relationships established over the years and with millions of dollars in funding from Boston Medical Center and Mass General Brigham, Fresh Connect is available as a prepaid VISA card.


In Massachusetts, where five healthcare systems began using the card to prescribe produce in 2021, most of the funding comes from Medicaid.








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