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.

According to a study commissioned by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), integration between health care and hunger relief sectors to increase food access, could add 30 – 45 million meals for food insecure patients annually.

BCG identified two main hunger issues Minnesotans face that drive health inequities in nutrition and where there may be promising approaches and potential for partnerships to address them:

Coverage gaps: where food shelf and meal program geographic coverage is relatively low.

Participation gaps: where people who are food insecure have relatively low utilization of hunger relief programs for which they are eligible, like SNAP benefits.

What is FOODRx?

FOODRx aims to connect food prescriptions and basic need services to low income patients through the MN health care system. This new project from Second Harvest Heartland, addresses the following three needs:


FOODRx Pilot Projects


Acute Care boxes, containing approximately 2-3 days’ worth of food, address the immediate needs of food insecure patients who are at risk of further health complications due to the lack of sufficient, healthy food at home.

Through partnership with Lutheran Social Services, we are also providing food boxes to seniors during regular wellness checks throughout Southwestern Minnesota to complement meal programs and Meals on Wheels deliveries. Each box provides approximately 2-3 meals.


For patients with chronic diseases who have major diet-related risk factors, we provide dietitian-validated food boxes that are designed for patient needs. Each box provides approximately 7-10 days’ worth of food. Food items, education materials, and recipes are customized to meet dietary and cultural needs of patients. Cultural versions available during the pilot phase are Traditional American, Somali and Hispanic.

  • At CentraCare Family Health Center in St. Cloud, patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease pick up chronic disease food boxes once a month at the clinic. Patients also receive a Coborn’s gift certificate for fresh produce every month. The food in the boxes varies by quarter, disease, and by cultural diet preferences. In addition, patients meet with clinic staff for chronic disease education every few months as part of the program, and receive healthy recipes every month that coincide with the ingredients in the box.

  • Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), another pilot site, has partnered with us for several years with an onsite “food pharmacy” and food resource referral program. In addition, as part of FOODRx project, diabetes food boxes will be shipped directly to patients identified by HCMC. As with the CentraCare pilot, the food will vary and the patient can choose between three cultural versions available.


  • For patients who have basic needs that are not being met, CentraCare Family Health Centeris also piloting a Health Resource Center (HRC) within their clinic waiting room. Second Harvest Heartland’s HRC Program Coordinator works with patients to connect them with community resources to stay healthy and fulfill their basic needs such as food shelves, patient advocates, free legal aid, child care and more.

Contact FOODRx

Alexandra Lofthus (thumbnail)

Alexandra De Kesel Lofthus

Bank of America
George Family Foundation
Initiative Foundation
Medtronic Foundation
MN Department of Human Services
CentraCare Health
Hennepin County Medical Center
Park Nicollet Health System
Lutheran Social Services

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