Hospital to launch “Prescriptions” for Fresh Foods program

5/13/2022

Ste. Genevieve, MO – The Ste. Genevieve Community Foundation has awarded a grant to Ste. Genevieve County Memorial hospital (SGCMH) to support the launch of a Fresh Foods RX Program, a pilot program to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the community.

“What we want to do is make sure fresh produce is affordable and accessible to any patients with food insecurities,” said Bleckler, SGCMH community champion. “When we say food insecurity, we’re talking about people who may not have the funds available to eat healthy and aren’t able to purchase the vegetables and fruits that will help with their diet.”

Bleckler said this is a pilot program and will start with five prediabetic and diabetic patients.

“It is so much easier and in a lot of ways cheaper to eat an unhealthy diet,” said Bleckler. “So we’re hoping if we can get some fresh fruits and vegetables into their hands and give them some ideas on how to prepare them, it will kick start a new lifestyle for them.”

SGCMH Physician Assistant Rikki Schafer echoed Bleckler’s comments about the challenge to eating healthy.

“The cost of eating healthy is a huge issue,” she said. Patient’s with food insecurities struggle to get fresh fruits and veggies every week. These items cannot be stored on a shelf. Another challenge is how to cook or use those veggies or fruits once you get these items. Lastly, people are very busy and have limited time, so finding ways to implement fresh produce in everyday life and get enjoyment out of it is also very key. We cannot sustain a fad diet; we need lifestyle change.”

Schafer will play an integral role in the Fresh Foods RX program, and has been researching the topic for some time.

“My interest was sparked, when I read an article about Geisinger Fresh Food Farmacy,” she said. “The focus of their program is fighting diabetes with healthy foods versus medication alone. This article sparked a huge interest and led to a lot of research about how we can implement foods into patient’s lives to treat underlying issues.”

She explained how the program will work.

“As a provider I am wanting to spend more time and energy putting the patient in the driver seat,” she said.We’ll begin by implementing a screening survey with patients about their lifestyle that includes, diet, activity, social connections, and sleep. By doing this we begin the conversation of what the patient’s goals are or what they want to work on. Then, we start the conversation about their diet and ways to substitute foods to help their sugars and cholesterol.”

If certain criteria are met, and there is an interest in participating, Schaefer will enroll the patient in the Foods RX program.

“At this point, I will write a script for fresh produce that can be redeemed at a local grocery store,” she explained. “The patient will also take part in a cooking class; meetings with a dietician; and a walking program through the community center. We will do four week checkups and labs at 12 weeks to assess results. The ultimate goal is to treat the underlying cause of the elevated glucose and cholesterol levels.”

Bleckler said she and Schaefer will team up with the MU Extension to offer cooking classes and recipes to show patients that cooking can be fun and healthy.

“We’re very passionate about the health of the community and excited to bring this Fresh Foods RX program to our patients,” said Bleckler. 

Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital is a nonprofit county owned community hospital that works to continue to improve the health and well-being of the community. Our professional staff uses advanced technology and medicine to provide excellent, personalized, and compassionate healthcare. For more information on Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital, visit stegenevievehospital.org.

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