Syracuse, N.Y. – St. Joseph’s Health is prescribing a new type of medicine for patients with diabetes and their families – free food.
St. Joe’s began distributing fresh food along with recipes for healthy meals last week to eligible patients at its main primary care center on the hospital campus at 101 Union Ave.
The “Food Farmacy” program is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a private, nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of vulnerable New Yorkers.
To be eligible, individuals must have diabetes, be unable to afford healthy food and be patients of St. Joe’s main primary care center.
Poor nutrition and food insecurity are linked to many chronic diseases, said Deb Mendzef, coordinator of St. Joe’s Food Farmacy.
In addition to food, patients will get nutritional counseling from a dietician, medication management from a hospital pharmacist and learn how to manage their diabetes.
The goal is to help patients improve their health, decrease hospitalizations and emergency room visits, Mendzef said.
Patients get the ingredients to make two healthy meals a day, five days a week, for them and up to five members of their households.
The food is stored in a pantry equipped with refrigerators and freezers St. Joe’s built in its primary care center. St. Joe’s gets the food from the Food Bank of Central New York and other vendors.
The Food Farmacy is modeled after a program operated by Geisinger Health in Pennsylvania, which has helped diabetic patients reduce their blood sugar levels and achieve other health improvements.
James T. Mulder covers health and higher education. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or [email protected]