Using Food Prescriptions to Address Access and Chronic Disease
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
What is food security? The Food and Agriculture Organization's definition of food security is “ when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
How can we ensure food security for people? Perhaps by first engaging local stakeholders to find local solutions including local farmers, local healthcare institutions, and other local community-based agencies.
Worth noting is the existence and impact of food deserts. Food deserts are areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthful foods. This may be due to income or distance, that is, living far away from sources of healthful and affordable food such as supermarkets. In this case, people may turn to convenience stores of small grocers, who may offer healthy food, but at a price that is not affordable. As a result, these people may become dependent on fast food restaurants offering a more affordable but limited variety of foods.
The lack of access to healthful foods and easy access to fast foods may be linked to poor diets that are high in sugar, sodium, and unhealthful fats. This can contribute to diet-related conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Hospitals can play a significant role in addressing food insecurity in neighboring communities through food prescription programs. Food prescription programs support access to healthy food such as fruits and vegetables by offering coupons or vouchers that people can redeem for healthier foods at farmers markets, retail grocery stores, local food banks. In some cases patients may be given a produce box from a community farm. Some hospitals even have their own gardens that provide community access to fresh produce and can additionally support the healing process through physical activity and social connectivity. Read More...