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Buffalo General Medical Center fosters population health through food accessibility

Supporting healthy food procurement and accessibility within communities is an opportunity for healthcare providers to bolster population health and prevent chronic disease. Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus began its BNMC Food as Medicine Initiative in 2015 with Buffalo General Medical Center and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to build a culture of local food procurement practices and increase its community’s access to healthy food.

After seven years, BNMC’s Food as Medicine program has resulted in a spectrum of initiatives, including:

  • population-level prevention programs like creating and expanding farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture;
  • eliminating deep-fat fryers at hospital cafeterias;
  • launching a Harvest of the Month educational campaign;
  • reducing portion sizes;
  • offering nutrition labeling of retail foods;
  • updating food and nutrition procurement policies; and
  • making healthy food accessible after the cafeteria closes with a smart fridge vending program.

Individual-level initiatives have also flourished, including an insurance-sponsored lifestyle medicine program for both healthcare workers and patients offering healthy meals, nutrition education, cooking classes, mindfulness meditation and a mobile health coach.

Additionally, BNMC hosted the first annual Food as Medicine Symposium in 2021, engaging more than 100 stakeholders in discussions about culinary medicine, nutrition in medical school education and community-clinical partnerships. BNMC’s partners include Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, University at Buffalo, Metz Culinary, Pandion Optimization Alliance and an array of local farms and social and educational organizations.

As a result of BNMC’s various Food as Medicine programs, community members and healthcare personnel have access to healthy local foods 24/7, including a secured $240,000 in funding to develop a medically tailored meal lifestyle medicine program with 125 healthcare workers and community members.

For more information, contact Beth Machnica, MPH, MS, RDN, director of health and well-being, at emachnica@bnmc.org or 716.989.7847.