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Addressing Food Insecurity and Chronic Health Conditions

The Food for Life Market at UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center provides patients with nutritional foods to stay healthy
The Food for Life Market® at UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center provides patients with nutritional foods to stay healthy.

While the U.S. is an advanced nation, considerable disparities exist in healthcare. Addressing the root causes can serve to improve a community’s quality of life. And in many urban communities residents often need help to be healthy. For this reason, UH made the commitment to do more.

In 2018, UH celebrated the opening of the Food for Life Market® at the UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center, an outpatient facility providing family medicine and specialty services in the Fairfax neighborhood in Cleveland. “We recognize many families are living a day-to-day struggle to survive and often may be faced with the decision to keep the roof over their head or put food on the table,” explained Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, UH Community Impact, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Edgar B. Jackson, Jr., MD, Chair of Clinical Excellence and Diversity. “As a result, food choice may be based on cost rather than nutritional value.”

With the new Food for Life Market®, UH is offering patients an opportunity to take control of what they eat and serve their family by providing free healthy food and consultations with dietitians. “Our goal is to help our patients control chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, by providing access to the necessary food for an active, healthy lifestyle,” she said.

If during a patient’s healthcare visit he or she is deemed to be food insecure, the physician will write a referral to go to the Food for Life Market®. Upon visiting the market, patients receive one week’s worth of food, free of charge. They also have the option of meeting with a dietitian, at no cost, who can counsel them on dietary needs and optimal food choices. Patients are eligible to receive the food assistance once a month for up to six months and can get an extension by meeting again with their physician.

Since opening, UH has served more than 125 households, providing individuals with healthy food options, elevating the conversation about choices that can improve their overall health and demonstrating UH’s compassion in caring for our neighbors.