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UF Health Jacksonville seeing patients' health improve through their Food Pharmacy program

Unlike other food pantries, the Food Pharmacy is only for patients and doctors can track their health data. UF Health Jacksonville has seen noticeable improvements.
Credit: Leah Shields

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The issue of hunger on the first coast has only gotten worse in the past year exacerbated by the pandemic and inflation, according to Feeding Northeast Florida. 

September 23 is Hunger Action Day. It's a day to bring awareness to the need and what is going on to fulfill that need in our community. 

UF health Jacksonville’s Food Pharmacy has been open for a year and they're seeing success, not the same kind you see at other food pantries. 

It's where Nathareena Battle gets her beloved fruits and vegetables.

“My sister came and said 'every time I come over you got fresh fruit in here.' I said I get it for my doctors office. She said huh!” Battle said.

It doesn't sound normal, does it? 

This grocery store set up is inside UF Health Jacksonville and is only for patients. 

The program  goes beyond what is in the cart. It focuses on nutrition and how food can change your life. Patients go through nutrition classes as well.

Here food is considered medicine and the numbers prove it. 

UF Health Jacksonville has been tracking the health changes in their 250 patients who shop here. 

Today is #HungerActionDay. I’ll take you inside UF Health Jacksonville’s Food Pharmacy. They’re using food as medicine...

Posted by Leah Shields on Friday, September 23, 2022

UF Health Jacksonville’s Vice President of Community Engagement Ann-Marie Knight says 83% of their diabetes patients who shop here have improved their A1C levels and 75% of shoppers with hypertension have lowered their blood pressure to healthy levels.

“We’ve got to get in front," said Ann-Marie Knight, Vice President of Community Engagement at UF Health Jacksonville. "We can’t keep telling a patient that you need to change your diet if we have not find a way to help facilitate some of that change for some of our most vulnerable populations of patients.”

They follow up with patients and that is what separates the Food Pharmacy from other food pantries. Doctors track their medical data and make sure they are improving. 

For people facing chronic illness and food insecurity, it can be stressful.

"Sometimes depressing," Battle said. 

They can get by and get healthy with a little help from their friends at UF Health Jacksonville.

You can help keep the program going. They hope to expand to helping 400 patients. Donate here.

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