According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 60 percent of patients entering the hospital are malnourished. These patients have longer inpatients stays and higher health care costs than their well-nourished counterparts.
Health care organizations are looking for creative solutions to this problem, and a number of exciting collaborations, pilot programs, and research studies throughout the country are providing nutrition as part of health care treatment plans. At Project Angel Heart, we’re playing our part by delivering medically tailored meals- but we’re not the only ones using food as medicine. Here are two more projects using nutrition to produce huge improvements in the health of chronically ill individuals:
The Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Health System
St. Joseph Mercy Health is a system of five hospitals located in Southeast Michigan. In an inventive new approach to improving patient and community health, they built a 25 acre farm near their Ann Arbor location.
The Farm grows a variety of vegetables and fruits, supports honey bees, and has several demonstration gardens where the community can learn about farming and healthy eating. Food grown on the farm is used to create fresh, healthy meals for patients in St. Joseph Mercy Health hospitals, and is also available to patients, hospital staff, and community members through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and farmers markets.
The Farm does much more than produce food. It has become a community hub of wellbeing and engagement. Through comprehensive education programs, children and adults learn how food is grown, cooked, and contributes to health. The Farm is also largely staffed by volunteers from the community and hospital who take great pride in contributing to growing and providing healthy food.
Boston Medical Center Food Pharmacy
Boston Medical Center (BMC) installed an on-site Preventative Food Pantry to address the nutritional needs of low-income patients battling chronic illness. Patients can actually be referred by BMC primary care doctors, who write “prescriptions” for supplemental foods that support their health and recovery. The food prescriptions are used as a tool in conjunction with other medical interventions in patient treatment plans.
Feeding more than 7,000 patients per month, the pantry relies on food donations that must meet certain quality and nutrition standards and includes many perishable goods, like fresh produce and meat. Attached to the pantry is also a food demonstration kitchen where patients and hospital staff alike can learn about cooking meals that are delicious and nutritious. Each person walks away with recipes and the skills necessary to nourish themselves with a healthy meal.
These health care facilities developed cutting-edge programs to address patients’ nutritional needs. Still more are incorporating malnutrition screening tools, staffing registered dietitians, and providing classes and education programs designed to help patients use food as medicine. It’s an exciting time as food is more largely recognized as a tool to help in treating and preventing chronic illness.
Leslie Scotland-Stewart is the Director of Business Development for Project Angel Heart’s Meals for Care Transitions program. She worked in sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 500 companies before deciding to focus her career on health and wellness. After helping build a startup company that helps executives become healthier leaders, she joined Project Angel Heart in a business development role. She has a passion for all things health, including nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness. Leslie has her MBA from the University of Denver and teaches fitness classes on the side. She loves spending time with her family, going to the zoo, hiking, or doing anything that will keep the family active. She also loves to travel and is always in pursuit of the most delicious coffee and dark chocolate!