For the past five years, Advocate Health Care in the United States has provided patients with fresh fruit, vegetables and protein, out of its Calumet Heights and Hazel Crest, Illinois, hospitals as part of its Food Farmacy.
The programme, designed to improve the diets of patients who either struggle to access fresh food or have long neglected to incorporate produce in their diet, is expanding to its hospital in Oak Lawn, also in the US state of Illinois.
“Our risk for dementia goes down; our risk for high blood pressure and diabetes goes down; our risk for cancer goes down; all by simply making dietary changes,” said Dr Tony Hampton, chair-elect of the Advocate Health Midwest Medical Group, at a kickoff news conference on Nov 14 (2023).
Twice a month, patients from the Oak Lawn community will be able to come to the hospital campus and pick up bags and boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, some canned foods and the occasional meat-based protein source.
The news conference marked the beginning of the programme in Oak Lawn, and patients who signed up received a special Thanksgiving order that included cauliflower, apples, leafy greens, canned soup, yams and a large turkey.
“Eating healthy is very expensive,” said Cecile Mays, a patient in the Advocate Health Care system.
“I love the programme so much, I volunteer now.”
She said she was reluctant at first when her doctor told her to participate.
But now, she said: “It changed my life. It educated me on how fruits and vegetables can alter how I feel, how I think.
“I lost 70 pounds (31.8 kilogrammes)!
“I was able to do more things because you feel good about yourself. You sleep better, you think better.”
The programme has offered food to 11,000 different people in the past five years.
Officials say the mission is to reduce health problems by facilitating healthy diets, which experts say greatly affects human health.
“Whether these patients were dealing with diabetes or cardiovascular disease or other chronic conditions, they (need) to have a healthy diet to really see significant progress,” said Moody Chisholm, president of Advocate Christ Hospital and Advocate South Chicagoland Patient Service Area.
“And that’s what this programme was born out of: allowing our physicians to prescribe a healthy diet.”
Patients must be referred by a provider with Advocate Health in order to be invited to the twice-monthly food distributions.
The food boxes, provided at a drivethrough on the hospital’s campus, also provides patients with literature on nutrition and recipes.
While a referral is required, Advocate Health’s news release says any patient in need who would benefit from more healthy food is eligible to join the programme. – By Hank Sanders/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service