CLEVELAND — Ivette is trying to eat better.
As a widow nearing 60, she’s doing it for herself but she’s also doing it for her four young grandchildren who live with her on Cleveland’s near West Side. She wants to set a good example.
Her health problems – diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol – are catching up to her. Earlier this fall, she spent some time in the hospital. Her doctor urged her to lose 50 pounds.
So far, so good: Ivette is preparing more salads. She’s baking and boiling instead of frying. She’s even switched to more healthy turkey sausage. Her fridge and pantry now hold fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, cereal and whole-wheat pasta.
That’s all thanks to the new Food as Medicine program at MetroHealth, an initiative supported by Citizens Bank, the Mt. Sinai Healthcare Foundation, The Reinberger Foundation and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
During Ivette’s hospital stay, a social worker told her about the program, which provides a “prescription” for healthy food to qualified patients who are dealing with diabetes, hypertension or heart problems and who lack access to enough food.
Once they qualify, patients visit the new food clinic inside MetroHealth’s Outpatient Pavilion on West 25th Street where they can fill their prescription with a two-to-three-day supply of healthy food for their household at no cost. They can visit the clinic every two weeks. Healthy recipes and tips for better eating are always included.
Why is there a food clinic inside a hospital?
Perhaps the better question is why isn’t there a food clinic inside every hospital?
We all know that good health is about so much more than just good health care. It’s about living a healthy lifestyle, exercising, getting a good night’s sleep, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, building healthy relationships, cutting stress and much more. And, of course, it’s about having access to healthy, nutritious food.
For now, the Food as Medicine clinic is a pilot program, capped at 100 patients. MetroHealth is tracking participants to see how increasing access to food improves overall health and quality of life. We expect to see a very strong correlation. That’s why we’ve invested in it.
Ivette has already seen the benefits. Since getting her Food as Medicine prescription, she says she’s lost more than 10 pounds and gained more energy. She’s saving money. And despite her grandkids not being big fans of whole-wheat pasta, they do love the turkey sausage. Most important, her family has improved their eating habits.
“The food is helping me and my grandkids,” she says.
Many more than 100 patients could benefit from MetroHealth’s Food as Medicine initiative. More than 100-times-100 patients could. The Food Bank estimates that one in six residents of Greater Cleveland lack reliable access to affordable, healthy food. That works out to more than 300,000 people in our region.
As we look forward to the promise and potential of a new year, let’s fill our community’s empty fridges and pantries with healthy foods. Join us and help expand the Food as Medicine program throughout Greater Cleveland. To donate, visit tinyurl.com/CleFoodClinic and select “Food as Medicine” under the designation menu.
Food is medicine for the body.
Your support will be medicine for the soul.
Dr. Akram Boutros is president and CEO of The MetroHealth System. Ralph Della Ratta is Ohio president of Citizens Bank.
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