MedStar Health Launches Program to Help Provide Healthy Food to Patients

November 2, 2018

Patients Can Receive Fresh Produce for Eight Weeks

BALTIMORE—(November 2, 2018)—Some MedStar Health patients may be discharged from the hospital with a prescription for healthy food – with a free home delivery of fresh produce for eight weeks.

Under a pilot program launched in October called Food is Medicine – Harvest RX, patients can be signed up by a community health advocate for a bi-weekly box of produce provided by Hungry Harvest. A typical box will contain fresh vegetables, fruits and grains, estimated to build four to eight meals. Patients can also be signed up for longer-term healthy food programs such as Meals on Wheels and the government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Another partner, the American Heart Association, will train MedStar Health community health advocates on nutritional guidelines and eating healthy on a budget so that they may offer advice to patients.

The goal of the program is to help fill gaps in nutrition and food access that may impact the overall health of patients.

“We know that food plays a huge role in one’s overall ability to be healthy,” said Ryan B. Moran, the director of community health for MedStar Health’s three Baltimore City hospitals. “For instance, if the patient is a diabetic and goes home without the ability to eat well, they’re going to end up back in the hospital. The goal is not just signing people up for the eight-week program, it’s for our community health advocates to also work on long-term, sustainable solutions.”

The project was funded in part by a $25,000 grant from the PNC Foundation, which will support 350 patients to join the program at MedStar Harbor Hospital. Separate donations from two individuals will support a 50-patient program at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.

The community around MedStar Harbor Hospital is known as a food opportunity zone.

“In our most recent community health needs assessment, food access came up as one of the top community needs,” Moran said. “That’s really driven by the South Baltimore area being a place where access to fresh produce and supermarkets is limited.”

MedStar Health began screening patients this fall for social determinants of health such as food security during emergency room or doctors visits, then connects the patients with community health advocates who can help them sign up for government, private and non-profit assistance programs. Patients who are identified as being in need of food assistance during the screening can be signed up for the Food is Medicine – Harvest RX program. MedStar Health is also exploring ways to track the effectiveness of the pilot program through a research study.

“PNC is committed to serving the people and communities where we live and work,” said Laura Gamble, PNC regional president for Greater Maryland. “Supporting the Food is Medicine – Harvest RX program is one of the ways we invest in communities to help families and individuals with the resources they need to become self-sufficient. Additionally, this is another great way to support our local businesses.”

“MedStar’s Harvest RX program lives at the crossroads of common sense and compassionate care,” said Stacy Carroll, director of sales and partnerships at Hungry Harvest. “By supplying their patients with the fresh fruits and veggies they need to achieve wellness and create a healthy eating routine, they are not only providing exceptional care to their patients, but helping local farmers better connect fresh food with people in need.  It’s a win for the patient, for our farmers, and for a healthier Baltimore.” 

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About MedStar Harbor Hospital

After more than a century of healing, MedStar Harbor Hospital is a mainstay in the community, serving patients from Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties at our convenient waterside location, with the services of a large, regional medical center in a smaller, more personal environment. With more than 350 affiliated physicians representing 30 medical and surgical specialties, and 1,200 associates, the hospital offers a full range of health care services for patients from infancy through the senior years. From general medicine and surgery, obstetrics, diabetes, pain management, arthritis, orthopaedics, and geriatrics to cardiology and urology, and now behavioral health, our team of caring physicians and associates serves the unique needs of every patient.

In 2016, MedStar Harbor Hospital was named a top hospital in Maryland and in the Baltimore metro area by U.S. News & World Report, receiving high performance ratings in specialty areas, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Gynecology, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Heart Failure, Pulmonology, and Orthopaedics.

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