Food Is Medicine
Project HungeRX is Amherst Survival Center’s outreach campaign with local physicians and medical providers to support them to assess their patients for food insecurity, and make referrals to local food and nutrition programs.
Through Project HungeRX, the Center supports physicians to “prescribe” food for their patients, using the Amherst Survival Center’s food programs as a referral.
The Amherst Survival Center’s food and nutrition programs include: a daily hot lunch, daily fresh food distribution, a senior mobile pantry, an onsite food pantry where residents of 13 towns can access free groceries on a monthly basis, and a monthly mobile food program at Southpoint Apartments in south Amherst.
With the support of the Mass Medical Foundation’s Alliance Charitable Foundation, the Amherst Survival Center provides resources and materials that support medical providers to raise and assess the topic of food insecurity. As part of the patient assessment, referrals to food and nutrition programs follow.
Strategies to assess food insecurity can vary by medical office, but essentially patients are asked a very simple question.
The question is:
Within the past 12 months, did you or your family worry that your food would run out before you got money to buy more?
Within the past 12 months, the food you bought didn’t last and you didn’t have money to buy more?
If a patient answers: “sometimes true“, or “always true“, they receive a referral.
We’ve also worked with medical offices to create materials that are posted in reception areas, exam rooms and bathrooms to help patients self-assess and open the conversation with their medical providers. These posters look like this (if the answer is the yellow shaded area, providers offer referrals to the local food pantry, including our own):
For more information, to access materials to use in assessing food insecurity, contact Lev Ben-Ezra by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at: 549-3968 ext 107.
Project HungeRX is supported through a grant from the Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation.
Project HungeRX focuses on food security and food access, but there are other nonmedical challenges that affect the health of individuals and families. The cartoon below, created by Boston-based pediatrician and cartoonist depicts these burdens for so many in our community:
In December 2015, the White House issued a special report on the effectiveness of SNAP (aka food stamps). The report found that inadequate food and nutrition benefits increases hospital admissions and illness. Food is medicine.
Resources (titles below link to the articles):
Why paying for nutrition saves money on health care, TIME, 10/2/17
Poverty as a Childhood Disease, 5/13/16
Poverty and Child Health, 3/9/16, American Academy of Pediatrics
Sensitive Approaches to Asking About Food Insecurity, from the American Academy of Pediatrics