FOODRx Program Launch Treats Food as Medicine
In spite of the connection between food access, nutrition and health, the health care system and hunger relief systems have historically functioned largely apart from each other. Nonprofits in hunger relief do not reach nearly all people who need food, and health care providers serve many patients who are food insecure.
To strengthen the effort to provide more access to food to more people, Second Harvest Heartland recently launched FOODRx, a pilot project which expands the capacity of health systems by providing patients with a turnkey connection to food and basic need resources when they need it most.
The project is structured in a way that will allow it to be replicated with future partnerships between the hunger relief and healthcare sectors focused on improving the health and food security of patients through three interventions, including:
“Second Harvest Heartland is committed to connecting our hungry neighbors with the food they need, and sometimes that means going beyond the traditional food shelf distribution model,” said Rob Zeaske, Second Harvest Heartland chief executive officer. “For many people in our region, lack of food means a higher likelihood of chronic disease and poor health, and FOODRx is one innovative way of helping them manage their health.”
FOODRx officially kicked off on Sept. 15 with a box-packing event with the project’s partners and supporters.
During the event, Dr. Dianna Cutts a pediatrician from Hennepin County Medical Center, a partner in the program shared a few stories of how hunger impacts her patients. One that always stood out to her was that of a young boy readmitted to the hospital shortly after being discharged due to issues with severe asthma.
“I know he had a really detailed discharge plan and to see him come back and be in distress was really disheartening,” shared Dianna. “When I sat down with the grandmother we realized that he had not been taking his medications as prescribed because they couldn’t afford the copays and needed the money for food at the end of the month”
As Dianna shared this story the quote that resonated with her the most was from the boy’s grandmother who asked the question, “whatcha going to do, breathe or eat?”
“Collaboration between the healthcare and hunger relief sectors offers an opportunity to improve outcomes for our low-income neighbors, but also reach new neighbors and treat them through a sustainable, dignified channel.”
We are excited about what’s on the horizon and thanks to all of the partners that have made this program possible.
Read more about the FOODRx launch event as featured on KSTP.
Currently in a pilot phase, the program is not accepting or open to new participants.