New ‘Food Farmacy’ treats chronic conditions with nutrition

(Photo: Hal Tyler)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One of Richmond’s oldest healthcare providers is launching a new program that uses nutrition to fight chronic conditions.

Health Brigade, formerly known as Fan Free Clinic, opened its Food Farmacy today.

The goal is to manage diabetes, high blood pressure and behavioral health needs of patients through eating the right foods.

“We see some of the sickest patients in the community, many of whom live in food deserts,” says Karen Legato, the executive director at Health Brigade. “For years, we have had a traditional food pantry to supplement our patients’ nutritional needs. Now, we have an opportunity to provide a structured approach to healthy eating with the Food Farmacy model.

Through a partnership with Shalom Farms, the Food Farmacy will help individuals gain access to healthy fresh produce. It will take a personalized approach to care with weekly coaching by Health Brigade volunteer nurses and dieticians. They will also monitor blood sugar, blood pressure and medications.

“It’s one thing to tell patients to go out and make good food choices,” explains Legato. “It’s another to provide fresh food and hands-on learning that will help them and their families to think about food differently.”

Shalom Farms will donate 300 servings of produce per week and will help the Food Farmacy provide hands-on cooking experiences using fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Health can be improved with better nutrition if we help patients to overcome the barriers between them and healthful eating,” says Dr Wendy Klein, the medical director at Health Brigade. “By giving fresh, healthy food and by giving patients the educational tools to make positive lifestyle choices, by enabling understanding and mindfulness, we can keep them healthier, and ultimately save lives as well as healthcare dollars.”

A $48,000 grant from the SUPERVALU Foundation is helping to make Food Farmacy a reality.

“SUPERVALU’s mission to feed our communities takes on special significance when innovative programs like this provide not only access to healthy food, but nutrition education as well,” says
Kevin Kemp, president of SUPERVALU’s wholesale division located in Mechanicsville.

Health Brigade was the first free clinic in Virginia, established in 1968.

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