Allegheny Health Network Expands ‘Healthy Food Center’ Program to Allegheny General Hospital
Friday, January 17, 2020
Originally launched at West Penn Hospital, this first-of-its-kind program in the region offers eligible patients free foods aimed at better managing health conditions
PITTSBURGH – At the region’s first Healthy Food Center, which opened in 2018 at West Penn Hospital, nearly 40,000 meals have been provided to patients and their families who lack access to nutritious food items. Starting next week, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) will reach even more patients in need with the opening of a second Healthy Food Center at Allegheny General Hospital.
The Healthy Food Center acts as a “food pharmacy” where patients who lack access to food can receive nutritious food items, education on disease-specific diets and additional services for other social challenges they might face.
Food insecurity refers to the lack of consistent access to nutritious foods for an active, healthy life. According to Feeding America, more than 14.3 million American households last year were food insecure with limited or uncertain access to enough food.
“We empathize with patients who are faced with having to prioritize other necessities over buying nutritious foods, and understand that this is a reality for many families. But, particularly for patients living with chronic health conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, we also know that they simply can’t afford not to maintain healthy diets,” said Stuart Fisk, CRNP, Director, AHN Center for Inclusion Health, part of the AHN Medicine Institute. “With the great success of our first Healthy Food Center at West Penn, we look forward to bringing this unique resource to patients at AGH, linking food and medicine so that they can better manage their chronic conditions and lead healthier lives.”
At the AGH Healthy Food Center, located in the Allegheny Professional Building (Suite 103), patients who receive a referral from a medical provider can visit the center to meet with an onsite dietitian to discuss their dietary needs based on their condition.
Residents in Pittsburgh’s Northside may also receive a referral to the center via community-based initiatives such as ‘Thrive 18,’ in which community health workers canvas Northside neighborhoods to uncover barriers to good health and connect residents with necessary resources.
After shopping at the center for the recommended food items, patients go home with two to three days’ worth of food for all members of their household. Patients may visit the Healthy Food Center once every 30 days for six months as part of their referral. During that time, patients have access to a range of educational resources, nutrition counseling and cooking classes, as well as social support services via the Center for Inclusion Health. After six visits, the patient may be issued a new referral if needed.
More than 800 patients have been referred to the West Penn Healthy Food Center since its opening in April 2018. The program was originally piloted among patients with diabetes who were screened by their doctor as being food insecure.
“Maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet can have a significant impact on blood glucose and blood pressure control. This has been the result for many of my patients with diabetes who previously faced a barrier in accessing healthy foods and now utilize the Healthy Food Center,” said Patricia Bononi, MD, Medical Director, AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health.
The Healthy Food Center is supported by its many partners including 412 Food Rescue, Gateway Health, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Highmark, The Food Trust and Travelers Aid of Pittsburgh.