Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has opened its latest Healthy Food Center — at Forbes Hospital.
This marks another milestone for this one-of-a-kind program in the western Pennsylvania region, and increasing access to nutritious food for residents of Pittsburgh’s east suburbs and surrounding area.
The Healthy Food Center acts as a “food pharmacy” where patients can obtain healthy food items, as well as education on disease-specific diets and resources to address other social challenges. The first center debuted in 2018 at West Penn hospital, followed by locations at Allegheny General Hospital, Jefferson Hospital and Saint Vincent Hospital. To date, AHN Healthy Food Centers have provided patients and their families with more than 124,000 meals.
Food insecurity refers to the lack of consistent access to nutritious foods for an active, healthy life. According to Feeding America, an estimated 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, faced food insecurity this year.
“Most recently, the prevalence of covid-19 has placed an even stronger emphasis on how fragile food security is for Americans and how vulnerable many families can be, especially with the loss of a primary household income,” said Stuart Fisk, CRNP, Director, AHN Center for Inclusion Health. “With the proven success of the Healthy Food Center at AHN, we’re pleased to even further expand the program to our east suburban neighbors, and positively impact families during an extremely challenging time.”
AHN clinicians screen patients for food insecurity by asking if they’ve been worried about adequate food supply in the last 12 months or if they’ve experienced financial hardships preventing them from purchasing enough monthly groceries for the entire household.
Patients who receive a referral from a medical provider can visit the center – located in the hospital’s Professional Building One – to pick up prepacked boxes of fresh produce and nutritious items. The boxes typically consist of roughly two to three days’ worth of food for all members of the household, and patients may visit once every 30 days for six months as part of their referral.
“With our robust clinical programs, AHN Forbes Hospital is uniquely positioned to make a difference for many food-insecure families who live in the communities we serve,” said Mark Rubino, MD, president, AHN Forbes Hospital. “We screen patients in our emergency department and in doctors’ offices for social and environmental challenges that could impact their overall health, and we know that many of our patients are struggling with barriers to health such as food insecurity and lack of transportation.”
“When patients experience these risk factors, it becomes more difficult for them to manage chronic health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” Rubino said. “Forbes Hospital has always been focused on the needs of the community, and by offering an additional access point to nutritious food items, we’re vastly improving the health and overall quality of life for the patients and communities we serve.”