Since opening to the public in February 2022, the Atrium Health Navicent Healthy Communities Food as Medicine Market and Food Farmacy program has fed more than 1,800 central Georgians facing food insecurity.
“The Food as Medicine Market and Food Farmacy program is bridging barriers to health care in our community by expanding access to healthy food and helping individuals learn how to make healthier choices,” said Atrium Health Navicent President Delvecchio Finley. “Food insecurity is a major barrier preventing many people in our community from living their best lives. We’re proud to celebrate the program’s one-year anniversary and look forward to helping more individuals to live healthier in 2023.”
In the program’s first year, more than 29,000 pounds of food were made available to individuals facing food insecurity.
The Food as Medicine Market is available for any person facing food insecurity and is located at 618 Orange Street Lane in downtown Macon. The Food Farmacy, which also provides access to the market, is open for patients with a referral from a provider or community partner. Regardless of how the patients access the market, everyone is provided with educational opportunities before they shop. For those with a medical condition for which nutrition could affect their overall well-being, such as diabetes or heart disease, specific guidance is offered about the best foods to eat.
“Everyone who walks in is offered nutritional education by nurses stationed at the market. For the patients referred by a doctor or community partner, they get information and education suited to their specific condition,” said Angelina Doh, manager of Atrium Health Navicent’s Healthy Communities.
Providing nutritional education, and letting visitors choose their own foods sets the program apart from other food pantries.
The goal is to help individuals learn to choose the right foods for them, and feel empowered using that knowledge moving forward. Patients select foods and place them in a cart, just like at a grocery store, so they can supplement their pantries and refrigerators.
“They get information cards to take with them as they shop for themselves in the market. We have found that this is really working, and it’s real-time education. We see patients looking at labels and understanding ingredients. We hope that they continue with the habit of always looking at labels when choosing foods,” Doh said.
The location of the market itself is also helping to meet a critical need in downtown Macon, which is classified as a food desert – an area with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. A community health needs assessment conducted by Atrium Health Navicent shows that food insecurity is a significant concern for the community.
The Food as Medicine Market hosted 826 visits in 2022 and volunteers provided 534 hours of aid.
Through the support of community partners such as the Navicent Health Foundation, Middle Georgia Community Food Bank, Macon Outreach, the Society of St. Andrews, Mercer University, Georgia Power, Community Foundation of Central Georgia and the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council, the Food as Medicine Market and Food Farmacy program expanded hours since opening and is making plans to expand to three full days weekly.
Meals on Wheels also has partnered with the market to help deliver medically-tailored food baskets to home-bound individuals.
To learn more about the Food as Medicine Market, visit navicenthealth.org/service-center/healthy-communities/food-as-medicine-market.