By Amy Crowley
The health and wellness of an individual often begins at home. Yet, hundreds of neighborhoods across the country do not have access to affordable nutritious foods. Sayler Park in Cincinnati is one of those neighborhoods.
In 2018, community leaders in Sayler Park began discussing how to address the lack of healthy food access in the area and how it contributed to the overall health of its residents. At the same time, Mercy Health began working with Produce Perks Midwest to explore programs that could help families struggling with issues of food insecurity.
And the need was great. Preliminary community assessments revealed that food access points within Sayler Park had very limited healthy food options. While there were potential access points through the local Sayler Park Farmers’ Market and a local Food Mart — neither sold fruits or vegetables.
Recognizing the need, the Mercy Health team sprang into action. Working with Produce Perks Midwest, the team launched a 6-month nutrition prescription program for families identified with food insecurities. The program not only provided monthly written prescriptions for free fruits and vegetables but also nutrition education and healthcare-provider support to evaluate their weight, BMI, blood pressure, hemoglobin A1c, fasting glucose, lipids and hemoglobin for pediatric patients.
“We believe good, healthy food changes everything,” said Tevis Foreman, Executive Director Produce Perks Midwest. “It connects us like few things do. It reflects our cultures and traditions. It heals, strengthens and sustains. It will take innovative solutions to address inequities within our communities. Programs like this are a great start and create on-the-ground impact in the daily lives of those we serve.”
Through these collaborative partnership efforts and community leadership the community saw real change. It now has 55 individuals enrolled in PRx (the Produce Prescription Program) and both the local Food Mart and Farmer’s Market now offer fresh produce due to investments made in the store infrastructure and a partnership with the Healthy Harvest Mobile Market. A promotional campaign is also underway to inform the broader community on these programs and the healthy food options now available.
In 2020, the teams will continue building these programs and expanding its capacity and infrastructures to strengthen the food system and drive positive changes in dietary intakes and health outcomes.
The Health Collaborative is proud to honor the Mercy Health team as a FINALIST for the 2019 Inspire Gen-H Award, as it identified a problem and quickly helped find a solution for a neighborhood in great need.
Watch for more articles profiling the work of our award finalists throughout October, as we lead up to the 2019 Inspire Healthcare Dinner and Awards Celebration!