Throughout their 50 year existence health centers have reached beyond the traditional walls of medicine to address the factors that may cause illness. In an earlier blog post we wrote about TCA Health, Inc., a health center in the South Side of Chicago which started a thriving food pantry for residents who had little or no access to healthy, fresh groceries. Areas of “food deserts” are all too common in economically challenged neighborhoods where for profit grocery stores with fresh produce are unlikely to set up shop. That is certainly the case in Franklinton, OH, where Lower Lights Christian Health Center hopes to set up a 15,000 square foot grocery store by early next year. According to an article published in Columbus Business First, the plan calls for both fresh produce as well as regular groceries and prepared food.
“We’re in the early beginning stages (but) we’ve had a desire for the last several years,” said Dr. Dana Vallangeon, CEO, in an interview with the newspaper. “Access to affordable, healthy food is one of the main issues we see in the neighborhood, and patients we interact with are missing.”
The newspaper also notes that access to healthy food is not only a health issue but an economic one, as few are willing to live in a neighborhood where there is no grocery store. That is why community groups and the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force are urging policymakers to fix the problem and establish a statewide healthy food financing fund.
Further north, South Boston Community Health Center has also established a “farmacy” (so to speak). For over ten years, the health center has hosted the South Boston Farmers Market for community members to shop for nutritious fruits and vegetables, flowers, herbs, fresh fish from Cape Cod Fish Share, locally produced honey and fresh breads. The project started as part of the WIC program, and thus accepts WIC Farmers Market Coupons as well as SNAP/EBT cards.
Also, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center has adopted several initiatives to increase access to healthy food, including the East Boston Farmers Market, EBNHC Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) (which connects community members and farmers for a convenient weekly subscription to healthy, affordable produce in season) and a EBNHC Wellness Garden.
If you know of a health center fighting food deserts with a farmacy — please let us know and we’ll highlight it on this blog!