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Arnot Ogden Medical Center fights food insecurity

New Yorkers across the state face food insecurity every day. Lack of access to healthy food is a prevalent health disparity, as good nutrition plays a key role in growth, development, health and well-being in all stages of life while reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. To help remedy this issue in the community, Arnot Ogden Medical Center initiated the Health Meets Food program.

Health Meets Food is a culinary medicine program dedicated to educating the local community about nutrition and its impact on people’s overall health and well-being. Arnot Health also started a pediatric counterpart to this program, which was modified to be more approachable for children of all ages. The medical center aims to increase skills and knowledge to support healthy food and beverage choices.

The Health Meets Food curriculum provides an innovative nutrition course that teaches staff how to fully engage patients in a meaningful dialogue about personal nutrition. This is accomplished by educating and coaching patients on healthy eating, budget-conscious food shopping and meal preparation. The pediatric program uses modified lessons of healthy eating and cooking habits geared toward a basic introduction to the kitchen.

The program targets goals 1.2 in New York’s Prevention Agenda, specifically within the “Prevent Chronic Diseases Action Plan” and the “Healthy Eating and Food Security” focus area. Community partners in this initiative include Tulane University Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, First Presbyterian Church, Economic Opportunity Program, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Elmira College, Wegmans, Food Bank of the Southern Tier and Ernie Davis Community Center.

Data have shown that physicians can have a direct effect on a patient’s dietary behavior. Program participants made changes in their diets such as incorporating more vegetables, fruits and legumes into their daily intake. The pediatric respondents strongly agreed that their children exhibited more confidence in the kitchen after the course. Respondents also strongly agreed that their children developed more interest in preparing meals and snacks, demonstrated greater awareness of kitchen safety and displayed more knowledge about nutrition. Before the pandemic, nutrition and cooking classes, like the one pictured above, were in person. They have since moved online, but remain well attended.

For more information, contact Beth Dollinger, MD, director, Health Meets Food, at bdollinger@arnothealth.org or (607) 738-0081.