Food Insecurity Addressed Through Opening of Food for Life Market

Physicians and dietitians to work with patients in ‘preventive model’ using healthy free food as means of tackling chronic health conditions


  • newswise-fullscreen Food Insecurity Addressed Through Opening of Food for Life Market

    Credit: University Hospitals/G. Stamatis

    Yvonne Zeller (left) of Cleveland picks up food at the new Food for Life Market at the University Hospitals Otis Moss Jr. Health Center with the help of registered dietitian Joyce Kavaras.

Newswise — CLEVELAND – University Hospitals announced today its continued effort to improve the health and wellness of the Cleveland community through the opening of its new Food for Life Market – a preventive model to address chronic health conditions by providing free healthy food and consultations with dietitians.

Located in the UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center, which resides in one of Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods, the Food for Life Market takes community-based healthcare to the next level.  Cuyahoga County has the highest number of food-insecure residents and children in the state of Ohio. Specifically, the Fairfax neighborhood has been designated a food desert, defined as an impoverished area with limited access to a grocery store, by Cuyahoga County Board of Health's Creating Healthy Communities program and the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission.   

To address the issue of food insecurity for its patients and residents of the Fairfax neighborhood, UH will offer them one week’s worth of food without charge, following a referral from their physician. Patients also will receive the option to meet with UH dietitians, who can counsel them on dietary needs and optimal food choices. Patients are eligible to receive the food assistance once a month for up to six months and can get an extension by meeting again with their physician. 

“Food insecurity can play a major role in health, disease, and well-being,” said Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, Community Impact, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at UH and the University Hospitals Edgar B. Jackson Jr., MD, Chair of Clinical Excellence and Diversity. “Access to the right kinds of food and incorporating that food into your diet can have important, beneficial effects on health, such as lowering blood pressure or blood sugar,” she said. “The initiative’s full name emphasizes that vital characteristic of this market:  Food for Life Market – Where the Health of Our Community Begins.”

“More than 20 years ago, UH and Olivet Institutional Baptist Church developed the UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center to provide high quality patient care in a spiritually supportive environment,” said Thomas F. Zenty III, CEO of University Hospitals. “The foundation upon which these services were built, is the belief that high-quality healthcare should be accessible to everyone.  As a result, the Center has played a key role in the health of hundreds of families. With the opening of the Food for Life Market, we have the opportunity to further advance the art of compassion by helping our neighbors make optimal food choices that can improve their health.” 

To determine financial need and be eligible for the food program, families will be asked two “hunger vital sign” questions at their doctor’s visit: “Within the past 12 months, did you worry that your food would run out before you got money to buy more?” and “Within the past 12 months, did the food you bought run out before you received money to get more?”

If they answer yes to either one of these questions, a physician at UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center will write a referral for them to go to the Food for Life Market, which is located within the building. The Center expects to serve 100 families a month.

Food for Life Market will be stocked with a variety of nutritious foods, such as whole grains, dairy, fresh and frozen produce, canned fruits, vegetables and meat products.

The Center also will hold healthy cooking demonstrations and lessons in meal preparation.

“We will follow the health of these patients over time, and we’ll be able to track their progress on specific diseases, like diabetes and hypertension by measuring indicators such as hemoglobin A1c and blood pressure,” said Anne Leach, MS, RDN, LD, Community Program Director and Wellness Dietitian Sodexo Healthcare. “We have developed a ‘preventive food as medicine model’ to address food insecurity, which we know if prolonged or repeated, can heave negative health consequences.”  

UH plans to engage participating patients in studies to determine the effectiveness of the program, make refinements and share knowledge gained with other healthcare institutions.

Food for Life Market will initially be open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m., or by special arrangement.

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About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio

Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 18 hospitals, more than 50 outpatient health centers and 200 physician offices in 16 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, located on a 35-acre campus in Cleveland’s University Circle, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The main campus also includes University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, including cancer, pediatrics, women's health, orthopedics, radiology, neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, digestive health, transplantation and urology. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News & World Report. UH is also home to Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals – part of The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development. UH is one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio with 26,000 employees. UH’s vision is “Advancing the science of health and the art of compassion,” and its mission: “To Heal. To Teach. To Discover.”  Follow UH on Facebook @UniversityHospitals and Twitter @UHhospitals. For more information, go to UHhospitals.org


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