How Allegheny Health Network is Helping Food-Insecure Patients
Healthy food centers have opened at six AHN hospitals and have served more than 275,000 meals since 2018.
Eating healthy isn’t always accessible if the budget doesn’t allow for it.
Allegheny Health Network’s Center for Inclusion Health recently commemorated the opening of the network’s sixth healthy food center at Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights.
This distinctive program increases access to nutritious food for patients who are food insecure (do not have access to sufficient or quality food to meet one’s basic needs) and struggle to properly manage health conditions. The referral-based centers also offer one-on-one nutrition counseling, education on disease-specific diets and information on community-based resources, according to Allegheny Health Network.
Allegheny Health Network Healthy Food Centers have served more than 27,500 patients and their family members, providing more than 275,000 meals since their inception.
Roughly 34 million Americans, including 9 million children, will face food insecurity this year, according to Feeding America, the largest nonprofit in the U.S. working to end hunger.
More than 236,500 people in the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s 11-county service area, or 1 in 10 of our neighbors, live with food insecurity.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how fragile food security is in the U.S., and that there are many families among us who are vulnerable to hunger and poor nutrition,” said Colleen Ereditario, program manager for the AHN Healthy Food Center for the Center for Inclusion Health, in an AHN press release.
Patients are screened by their health care professionals through a survey that asks if they have been worried about their food supply in the past year, or if they have experienced financial hardships that have prevented them from purchasing enough groceries. They are also screened for other social barriers, such as a lack of transportation.
During initial visits to the centers, registered dietitians will ask patients about their family’s dietary needs and guide them through the center. Patients will then shop for recommended items and take home two to three days’ worth of fruits, vegetables and other items for every member of their household.
Patients may visit the healthy food center once every 30 days for six months as part of their referral.
“People who have healthier eating habits and access to nutritious foods have better overall health and have an easier time managing chronic health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” said Dr. Mark Rubino, president of Allegheny Valley Hospital, in the release.