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Presbyterian program to help patients eat healthier

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Presbyterian Healthcare Services has launched a pilot program built around the concept of food as medicine.

Lack of access to healthy food can have a long term negative impact on a patient’s overall health, especially those with a chronic disease like diabetes, and those are the patients Presbyterian hopes will benefit from the Food Pharmacy, said Leigh Caswell, director of the Presbyterian Center for Community Health.

Patients at the Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital campus will be screened for “food insecurity.” For those who, through economic or geographic factors lack access to a source of healthy food, providers can give them a prescription for the Food Pharmacy. That prescription will enable them to receive 10 pounds of fresh produce and low-sodium, low-sugar shelf-stable items, such as oatmeal, canned beans, eggs, soup and peanut butter.

“We are really trying different ways to support patients’ access to healthy food,” said Caswell.

The Roadrunner Food Bank truck delivers fresh produce on May 16, the opening day of the Food Pharmacy on the Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital campus. (Rosalie Rayburn/Albuquerque Journal)

She said Presbyterian will buy some of the items or obtain them through food drives. Presbyterian has a partnership with Roadrunner Food Bank, which will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables each week.

Caswell was on hand on opening day, May 16, when a Roadrunner truck delivered pallets of oranges, eggplant and spaghetti squash. The shelves were stocked with items like canned tuna, pasta and dried beans. A chiller contained cartons of fresh eggs from Galloping Grace, a Rio Rancho nonprofit that educates children about raising animals and crops.

Presbyterian created the Food Pharmacy based on a model developed by ProMedica, an Ohio health system.

The Food Pharmacy is located at 8300 Constitution Place NE., near Kaseman Hospital. It is run by Presbyterian staff with help from volunteers. Opening hours are noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. Patients will be able to visit each week.

By seeing patients weekly, Caswell said, the hope is to develop relationships that will help Presbyterian identify the underlying issues behind their food insecurity and help them find a sustainable source of healthy food.

Presbyterian has several other programs designed to increase access to healthy food. They include a free meal program at five Presbyterian hospitals, the Healthy Here Mobile Market and the Fresh RX program that provides patients with “prescriptions” for fresh fruits and vegetables.

For information about these programs, go to the Presbyterian Healthcare Services website, and search for “community health program highlights.”