Food Bank Innovations | Food Pharmacies

August 9, 2017

He’s really not one to gloat, but for the first time in a long time 39-year-old San Francisco resident Julio says he’s feeling healthy.

“I’m hoping to live a long life for my two kids and my infant granddaughter, and I have the Food Bank to thank for that.”

Julio has “pre-diabetes” which means if he doesn’t start making changes to his diet, he’s a candidate to develop Type 2 Diabetes. His doctor recently referred him to the Silver Avenue Family Health Clinic, in the city’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood. There, the Food Bank and the San Francisco Health Network (SFHN) partnered this year to open up a new program centered on healthy, nutritious food called Food Pharmacies.

Julio says he came in weighing more than 270 lbs, and a blood pressure reading of 190 over 102. Several weeks later, and he’s dropped a few pounds, and saw his blood pressure drop considerably. “I finally feel like I’m on the right path to good health.”

Alicia Hobbs organizes the program at Silver Avenue and says the idea is to use food as medicine in a new regimen aimed at patients with health challenges, such as diabetes and hypertension. “We’re not just introducing patients to healthy food…we’re teaching them how to cook this food in the healthiest way possible. Perhaps most importantly, we’re trying to create a community where these patients feel supported every step of the way.”

Along with the food, patients have access to weekly health screenings, one-on-one consultations with Registered Dietitians, and referrals to additional resources like CalFresh.

James Stancil helps coordinate the Food Pharmacy and is also a patient. “I’ve been on the program for several weeks now, and I can tell you that I’m now being taken off of some of my meds.  My health has improved that much…this program is definitely going to save some lives.”

UCSF Clinical Professor, Dr. Rita Nguyen is overseeing the program for the SFHN and says “Addressing these barriers is key to the Network’s priorities of delivering high-quality care for diverse populations and addressing health disparities. Clinic staff and patients have been really enthusiastic about this new programming which would not have been possible without our wonderful partnership with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.”

Food Bank Director of Programs, Sheila Kopf couldn’t be happier to be partnering on such an innovative new program. “Good nutrition is essential for good health, and by working with these health care providers, we are building connections for patients to food assistance, which can improve their health outcomes for years to come.”

The plan is for the Food Bank and the San Francisco Health Network to open up five more Food Pharmacies in the city by the summer of 2018 and serve more than 200 patients.

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