A.O. Fox Hospital was awarded $10,000 Aug. 27 to help launch a food “farmacy” at its Tri-Town Campus in Sidney, set to open in January 2020.

Similar to how people get prescription medications from pharmacies, the farmacy will be a prescription food location for patients and their families in need, according to Gabrielle Argo, regional marketing, public relations and community engagement manager at A.O. Fox.

Visitors will receive food vouchers prescribed by their primary care providers. The grant is provided by the MultiPlan Rural Health Grant Program, according to a media release from Bassett Healthcare Network.

Clinicians will create referrals for patients at risk for food insecurity, based on things like the diagnosis of a chronic disease like diabetes, congestive heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; lack of health insurance; low household income; addiction; and behavioral issues.

"This project is truly a unified community effort,” Sarah Buttice, director of Education and Employee Wellness at A.O. Fox said in the release. “Addressing food insecurity in our communities is an ongoing priority of Fox Hospital’s and we are proud to partner with local businesses to launch this amazing program."

Participating businesses include Price Chopper, Great American, Hannaford, Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, Pathfinder Mobile Grocery and local farms and food pantries. The farmacy will aim to avoid processed foods and instead offer fresh produce and healthy, non-perishable goods like canned vegetables and fruits — food items that can make meals go a long way, Argo said.

The food prescriptions will be part of some patients' care program, according to Argo. For example, if a patient has a condition where they have to watch their sugar intake, their food prescription will reflect that. The project's goals, based on projected patient referrals, are to decrease area food insecurity by 25% and increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications by 25%, Buttice said in the release.

The farmacy will also provide education and navigation services to patients and their families. SUNY Oneonta nutrition students will be able to work with A.O. Fox to get real world experience.

2017 data for Delaware County shows more than 5,300 people experience food insecurity and more than 1,800 of those people are children, according to Feeding America, a national network of food banks.

“Food is medicine and people forget that. Food is one of our greatest resources to keep us healthy,” Argo said. “When people don’t have access to adequate food, a basic need we take for granted, their whole world is fragile, the state of their health is completely compromised. We're getting back to basics with medicine, we're feeding people.”

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

Recommended for you