General Hospital Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank receive grant to expand ‘Food is Medicine’ program

Nashville General Hospital Food Pharmacy

Nashville General Hospital, Nashville General Hospital Foundation and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee (SHFB) received a $100,000 grant from the Amerigroup Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Amerigroup’s parent company) to launch the ‘Food is Medicine’ program. The grant will fund a yearlong initiative between Nashville General Hospital Foundation and Second Harvest to enhance The Food Pharmacy at NGH program through universal food insecurity screenings and interventions.

The ‘Food is Medicine’ program, a Feeding America initiative funded by the Amerigroup Foundation, will help Nashville General Hospital increase program services. Currently, nearly 250 NGH patients with food insufficiency have been supported by The Food Pharmacy at NGH. These grant dollars will encourage increased screening across the hospital system and provide for fresh and shelf-stable food for patients living with food insecurity. The goal is to enhance access to nutritious foods, improve disease self-management and increase the future health of patients.

New patients registered for the Food Pharmacy at Nashville General and regular attendees to the care management diabetes classes are learning valuable information.

“The diabetes class and access to the Food Pharmacy have enabled us to learn the right foods to include, how to read nutrition labels and most importantly help us put fresh vegetables into our daily diet,” said Diane and John, current NGH Food Pharmacy participants.

The Food Pharmacy at Nashville General offers fresh produce and shelf-stable foods to supplement the specific dietary needs of patients based on a diagnosis of chronic illness or cancer. Two years of Food Pharmacy attendance for people receiving cancer treatments confirm the essential nature of providing challenged patients with proper nutrition in order to maintain body weight and complete chemotherapy. The program is fully funded by the Nashville General Hospital Foundation.

According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, nearly 15% of Davidson county residents are food insecure. In identifying households of the patients at Nashville General Hospital and the food deserts mapped by Feeding America, there is a direct correlation. Nearly 100,000 county residents are food insecure, and the lack of access to nutritious food directly affects individual diagnoses of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

Second Harvest works every day to provide healthy food for people struggling with hunger throughout their 46-county service area in Middle and West Tennessee. It is working with Nashville General to address the unique needs of their patients. This grant will make certain these patients have the foods they need to ensure a more nutritious diet while dealing with tough medical issues.

“Access to healthy food is a critical social determinant of health and fundamental to our goal of building healthier lives and communities in Middle Tennessee,” said Amerigroup Tennessee President Robert Garnett. “We’re working on several fronts to connect people to healthy, affordable food choices and creative community partnerships like ours with Second Harvest and Nashville General Hospital are the key to making that happen.”

Food insecurity is strongly associated with poor nutrition and is linked to a negative impact on health across a person’s lifespan. The ‘Food is Medicine’ program introduces a platform in which healthcare providers and essential hospital systems will be able to be a part of the ongoing efforts to identify individuals affected by food insecurity and address their health and nutritional needs.

To learn more about The Food Pharmacy, visit <www.nashgenfoundation.org/food-pharmacy>.

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