Program prescribes a dose of nutrition.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food, Hippocrates famously said.
This idea that diet, healing, and health are inseparably connected also is a theme and guiding principle that comes up frequently in conversations with Al Brislain, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, which launched its Prescription Pantry in fall 2017.
The program aims to help improve the health of low-income patients who suffer from diet-related conditions such as diabetes or obesity by using “prescriptions” for nutritious food that can be picked up at local food pantries.
“Food is medicine,” Brislain says. “All of the studies show that if a patient is food insecure when he or she gets discharged from the hospital, that person will have a much higher likelihood of coming back. It really helps with healing to be eating proper foods.”
It takes a network
The FBNN-initiated Prescription Pantry was launched with a grant from the Fund for a Healthy Nevada, but bringing the idea to fruition has been a collaborative effort. A network of community organizations has joined the cause.
Three health care providers (Renown Health, Community Health Alliance, and Northern Nevada HOPES) and the CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada counsel their patients about the benefits of healthy eating and provide prescriptions for healthy food to those in need.
The food, which primarily comes from the FBNN, is supplemented with freshly grown produce from local teaching farm Urban Roots in Reno. Food is then distributed at seven different pantries in Reno and Sparks, where patients present their prescriptions in exchange for their supplies of fresh produce and other healthy items.
Although the program is less than a year old, it already has served more than 23,800 clients, according to Jocelyn Lantrip, the FBNN’s director of marketing and communications.
Convincing people to change their eating habits is a huge challenge, Brislain says, but he thinks it is worth the effort. Diet is known to play a huge role in healing and good health — and when families cook together, one person’s prescription for nutritious food can benefit everyone at the table.
“If you have one family member who is having health problems that are partially related to diet, there’s a good chance that other family members are moving in that direction,” Brislain says. “So when you give nutritious food to the whole family, I think we’re having some impact there, too.”
Kelsey Fitzgerald is a freelance writer in Reno. She enjoys stories about the outdoors, environment, and people of the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada.
Food Bank of Northern Nevada
550 Italy Drive, McCarran • 775-331-3663 • Fbnn.org