Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Food as Medicine

Programs/Food as Medicine
Food as Medicine

This initiative intends to improve the health outcomes of our clients with food-related health challenges.

Our Food as Medicine Initiative is intended to improve the health outcomes of our clients with food-related health challenges. Of the approximately 300,000 clients served annually by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and our more than 1,000 partner programs in six counties, one third live with a family member living with diabetes and two thirds live in a household with a family member struggling with hypertension. This program is a collaborative project that involves health care facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and Federally Qualified Health Centers. Through a combination of improved food access, education, targeted clinical care, and other community resources, the Food as Medicine program eliminates some of the key barriers to improved health and well-being, such as a lack of access to healthy food.

Food as Medicine Program and Service Offerings

  • Food Prescriptions – The Food Rx partnership begins with screening patients for food insecurity at their health care facility. Patients who screen positive are then referred to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank Help Center, where they are directed to free local food resources, assisted in completing SNAP applications and referred to eligible resources.
  • Fresh Produce Distributions – Fresh produce is delivered directly to healthcare centers, typically monthly, in areas of high need. Patients are able to return home with several days’ worth of nutritious produce.
  • Therapeutic Food Clinics – Food clinics are typically paired with food prescriptions. Patients who screen positive for food insecurity are directed to an on-site food pantry, stocked by the GCFB, for immediate access to nutritious and health-supporting food. Typically, patients who receive this intervention are tracked for beneficial health outcomes.
  • Healthy Food Boxes – Healthy food boxes are kept on-site to provide an assortment of nutritious shelf-stable foods to patients. Boxes can be stored directly in doctors’ offices and do not require as high a level of investment in staff time or physical space as do full food clinics.
  • Nutrition Education – The Greater Cleveland Food Bank provides a broad variety of educational services, including training on the role of food insecurity on health outcomes for clinical staff, as well as cooking demonstrations and a diverse array nutrition education seminars for patients.

Community Collaborations

  • The Centers for Families and Children, a nonprofit that provides health care, childhood education and workforce development services, offers an on-site Therapeutic Food Clinic for patients experiencing hypertension and diabetes. Patients are screened for food insecurity by their care coordinator, and if eligible, receive a prescription for medication and for food that is tailored to their chronic condition — whether it is diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity or more. The food prescription will be taken to the food pharmacy in exchange for a bag or box of healthy food, along with recipes. The prescription can be refilled once a week. The Centers also provides fresh produce distributions, provided by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, at multiple locations.
  • MetroHealth’s Food as Medicine Clinic currently provides nutritious foods to patients receiving care on MetroHealth’s Main Campus. To benefit from the new food clinic, patients must have been screened positive for food insecurity during an inpatient stay, have a primary care provider at MetroHealth and have uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension or acute exacerbation of heart failure. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank provides nutritious foods directly to the clinic, including whole grains, dairy, fresh and frozen produce, canned fruits, vegetables and meat products.
  • University Hospitals' (UH) Food for Life Market, located at the Otis Moss Jr. Health Center, takes community-based health care to the next level. University Hospitals addresses the social determinants of health with a preventive model that improves healthy food access and literacy in one of Cleveland's most food-insecure neighborhoods. This outpatient primary care center screens all patients for food insecurity, and a physician referral provides access to a full week’s worth of nutritious foods on a monthly basis for six months at a time. Patients are also encouraged to meet with UH dietitians for personalized dietary counseling and meal planning related to chronic conditions and individual risk.

  • Northeast Ohio Neighborhood (NEON) Health Services, which provides quality, personalized and family-oriented comprehensive health care, provides fresh produce distributions to its patients at six locations throughout Cleveland. In addition, NEON is implementing system-wide food insecurity screening and food prescriptions to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank for food insecure patients.
  • Additional partnerships include the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center of the Cleveland Clinic, MedWorks, and J. Glen Smith Health Center. Each of these partners distributes thousands of pounds of produce, monthly, to patients who are food insecure.

For more information on our Food as Medicine initiative and inquiry of potential partnerships, please contact our Food as Medicine Staff via email.

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