Hospital association, Department of Agriculture start ‘Food as Medicine’ effort to get more local food into Kentucky hospitals

Kentucky Health News

The Kentucky Hospital Association and the state Department of Agriculture have started an effort to get more local food into Kentucky hospitals.

“A recent survey completed by representatives of 50 hospital systems across the state found that only about 2 percent of the hospital’s budget is spent on local food,” a department news release said. “The overall average percentage of local food being served at these same hospitals was 15 percent.”

In their “Food is Medicine” campaign, the department, KHA, eight health systems and other organizations “will study how hospitals can play a key role in prescribing food as medicine to patients by creating more access to healthier and local foods,” the release said. They will:

· Look at the food a hospital is serving to patients;
· Create partnerships between hospitals and local farmers;
· Connect patients with resources to a consistent healthy food resource;
· Reach out to patients who need a special diet, such as diabetes patients, and who could benefit from having a resource to fresh food.

“Access to nutritious food is critical to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Commissioner Shell said. “Advocating that connection between food and health is essential to meeting the goal of less chronic disease and longer lifespans. But it’s more than a message about choosing the right foods, it’s also a message about expanding our food distribution networks within the agriculture industry.”

KHA President and CEO Nancy Galvangni said, “Kentucky’s hospitals work every day to improve the health of our citizens and this new collaboration between KHA and the Department of Agriculture will elevate ways in which hospitals throughout Kentucky can address the social drivers of health facing our commonwealth.”

Hollie Harris, president and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare, said “As the largest provider of care in southeastern Kentucky, our responsibility goes beyond treating illness. We want to help people live healthier lives, and that starts with access to healthy foods. . . . We can create partnerships to address our state’s troubling health statistics and make fresh, locally grown foods more available in our communities.”

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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