Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Food Farmacy program combines one-on-one meetings with a registered dietitian and access to healthy food options. The program aims to improve health outcomes, nutrition-related knowledge and skills, and dietary habits among patients who are also experiencing food insecurity, or inability to access enough food to live an active, healthy life.
Food Farmacy program manager Laura Rodgers says food and nutrition play an important role in maintaining good health, managing and preventing diseases in patients who have conditions or situations that are responsive to changes in their diet.
“Our goal is to help patients implement healthy diet and lifestyle changes to improve their overall health, as well as manage and prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” Rodgers says. “Many of our patients have seen very promising results, including weight loss and reductions in body mass index and blood pressure.”
The Food Farmacy team works closely with patients’ health care providers, as well as local food pantry partners. Patients meet regularly with an LG Health registered dietitian at a food pantry, where they receive nutrition counseling and “shop” the shelves for healthy food for themselves and their families. What’s more, there is no cost to the patient.
Elizabeth Doherty at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians Family Medicine Buck often talks with her patients about changing their diet or eating habits to help improve their health. Even so, she says, many patients don’t know exactly what steps to take, and some are unable to access or afford healthy food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables or low-sodium options.
“Most lifestyle changes require more follow-up and discussion than we can usually provide in a routine office visit,” she says. “Being able to work one-on-one with a dietitian who can spend time with them and have that linked to providing healthy food is really powerful.”
The number of Americans experiencing food insecurity was declining for over a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that number is now rising, and recently was projected to reach 10.2% in Lancaster County, according to Feeding America. Food security isn’t just about having enough food, Rodgers says. People also need access to healthy foods that support their individual dietary needs.
This story is by Mary Beth Budnyk. Read more at Penn Medicine News.