Operation Food Search – Fresh Rx


This study is an evaluation of the Fresh Rx: Nourishing Healthy Starts program administered by Operation Food Search, a St. Louis-based hunger relief organization. The goal of the program is to provide food and nutrition supports to food insecure pregnant women to improve health and birth outcomes for both mother and child. It is anticipated that a food prescription program could be beneficial to many populations and result in significant healthcare cost savings. Specifically, this program provides:

  • Facilitated access to food support programs.
  • A weekly share of fresh, local food along with nutrition and culinary education provided by a Registered Dietitian and Community Chef.
  • Access to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to provide brief counseling and connection to community resources.

The goal of this project is to improve birth outcomes for both mothers and infants. Specifically, anticipated program outcomes include:

  • Reduction in food insecurity.
  • Improved maternal health outcomes.
  • Improved birth and infant health outcomes.
  • Reduction in NICU admissions and other healthcare costs.
  • Increase in life skills.
  • Decrease in nutritional deficits.

As a partner in the Fresh Rx-Nourishing Healthy Starts program, Social Policy Institute researchers will lead the research design of the program, conduct data analysis, and evaluate program outcomes using the following metrics:

  • Maternal health (weight gain, blood pressure, blood sugar).
  • Birth outcomes (birthweight, gestational age).
  • Number of infant illnesses/complications.
  • Overall program costs.

Enrollment into the pilot program began in September 2018. Research for this program is conducted in partnership with SSM Health DePaul Hospital OB Care Center.

Principal Investigator

Stephen Roll

Associate Director of Research


Dan Ferris

Associate Director of Education and Training

Jin Huang

Associate Professor, Saint Louis University

Jason Jabbari

Associate Director of Community Partnerships

Katherine Matthews

Associate Professor, Saint Louis University

SPI Staff