Food as Medicine expands efforts during pandemic
Food as Medicine, an Atlanta-area program that teaches healthy eating and prescribes healthy foods, is proving essential amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new nonprofit is a collaboration between the Grady Health System Foundation, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Open Hand Atlanta. It was preparing to open the Jesse Hill Market as the hub for their Food as Medicine program on Grady’s main campus when COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in 2020.
Lisa Porter, who leads Humana’s Bold Goal work in Atlanta, said Food as Medicine was set up to fill food prescriptions from physicians whose patients have chronic, diet-related diseases. It has expanded efforts in the last year as the need has grown exponentially.
Because Humana’s Bold Goal work involves helping communities address social determinants of health and health-related social needs, this project was important to Humana, Porter said. Not only that, but because the program individually tailors food prescriptions with consult, it really gets to the heart of providing human care – meeting individuals’ important and unique needs.
Prior to shelter-in-place restrictions, Food as Medicine had one Fresh Food Cart in a Grady neighborhood health clinic, but the agency wanted to expand the service while meeting social-distancing requirements.
With the Food Bank and $100,000 support from Humana, Grady was able to expand its Fresh Food Cart program from one to three of the neighborhood clinics at community health centers, delivering fresh produce and shelf-stable grains to help people manage chronic conditions and sustain their families. The ongoing Fresh Food Carts have dispensed approximately 195,000 pounds of fresh food to families in need over the last 10 months.
With Humana’s additional $250,000 support, its main building was able to open safely in August of 2020 to dispense food prescriptions, teach cooking classes and offer other needed services.