SAN ANTONIO – They say everything is bigger in Texas, which makes it the perfect place to share big ideas, like Geisinger’s food as medicine approach to health care. The concept, highlighted through Geisinger’s Fresh Food Farmacy program, was recently honored with a Health Living Award at this year’s Viva Fresh Expo in San Antonio.

The award recognizes individuals who are making a difference in educating consumers on the importance of health and nutrition, especially when it relates to incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their daily diets. The award’s goal is to support a key Viva Fresh Expo mission to empower the produce industry to take an active role in promoting health lifestyles with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Michelle Passaretti, MSN, RN, CCM, senior director of innovations at the Geisinger Steele Institute for Health Innovation, presented about the Fresh Food Farmacy at this year’s expo. She focused on how the food as medicine approach put medical research into action to combat diabetes, pre-diabetes and high obesity rates.

“Geisinger takes a fundamentally different approach to health care by investing in programs like the Fresh Food Farmacy,” Passaretti said. “By making fresh food available where people need it the most, we empower patients to adopt healthy eating habits by making food part of the prescription for their medical treatment.”

Through partnerships with local food organizations, and primarily the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, the Fresh Food Farmacy provides fresh, healthy food to patients and their families for up to 10 meals per week. Patient education is also an important factor in the program, which addresses two key factors including food insecurity and uncontrolled diabetes.

Since launching in 2016, data from Fresh Food Farmacy patients shows an average 2-point drop in HbA1c level in patients, along with lower weight, blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol. Data also shows a collective $1.5 million in health care savings for Geisinger patients who have participated in the program.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by the produce industry for the work we are doing here at Geisinger,” Passaretti said. “The Fresh Food Farmacy team is passionate about how we care for our patients and the data shows how a program like ours can truly make an impact and a difference in the lives of our patients in the communities we serve.”

The Fresh Food Farmacy in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, currently has 250 patients enrolled. A second location opened in March in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with a third location expected to open in the summer in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. For more information on the Fresh Food Farmacy click here.