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Catholic Health (Buffalo) fights food insecurity

Food insecurity contributes to chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and overall health disparities. In Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties, an estimated 164,830 people live with food insecurity, which — according to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study — is 25% higher in Western New York than the state average. To address food insecurity in their community, Catholic Health (Buffalo) partnered with FeedMore WNY and D’Youville University to launch the Food Farmacy at Sisters Health Center D’Youville.

The collaborative effort lets primary care providers link patients at risk for food insecurity to nutritional food; ongoing education regarding diet, exercise and symptom management; and needed support to change behaviors and improve health outcomes. More than just a food pantry, the collaborative focuses on health and wellness through nutrition and increasing access to healthy, fresh food. Clients work with a dietitian, get free nutrition counseling and are encouraged to set health goals and monitor their progress with free health screenings. The Food Farmacy also offers free cooking classes.

Anyone from Western New York can take advantage of the Farmacy’s services. Patients at Sisters Health Center — located in the same building — are referred to the Farmacy, especially those at risk of health problems tied to poor diets, such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease. Clients make their choices on an iPad and Farmacy volunteers do the “shopping.” Clients also get a certificate upon completing the program, but many continue to attend classes and check in with the dietitian. Aside from fighting food insecurity, the goal is to have clients become community ambassadors, letting people know about this resource and sharing the things they’ve learned with their families and others. 

In the first year of operation, the Food Farmacy distributed 20,683 pounds of food (enough for 17,235 meals) to 690 households. To improve access for diverse populations, the Farmacy has implemented language translation services.

For more information, contact Carrie Sette-Camara, manager, communications, Sisters of Charity Hospital, at csettecamara@chsbuffalo.org or 716.387.1002.