Aging and Chronic Disease
Community and Public Health Nutrition
Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition
Objectives : The number of food pantries in the U.S. has grown dramatically over 3 decades, yet food insecurity remains a persistent public health problem, consistently affecting 1 in 8 Americans. The goal of the study was to examine the impact of an intervention called The Food Pharmacy Network, designed to promote food security amongst patients of health clinics. The Food Pharmacy Network is an alliance of food pharmacies, hubs for free fresh produce within health clinics across the nation. The Network includes 15 member clinics from across the United States. While food pantries only provide food, each individual Food Pharmacy included a client-choice pantry, monthly meetings with a nutritionist or dietician to receive motivational interviewing, and targeted referrals to community services.
Methods : Control group participants went to traditional food pantries where they received bags of food. Using randomized parallel-group study with equal randomization, data were collected from September 2017 to September 2018; a total of 1,028 adults were recruited over 1 year from traditional food pantries and randomized to the Food Pharmacy Network intervention (n=513) or control group (n=515), with quarterly follow-ups for 12 months. Data analyses were conducted from July 2018 to November 2018. Outcomes were food security, self-sufficiency, and fruit and vegetable consumption. Multivariate regression models were used to predict the three outcomes, controlling for age, gender, household size, income, and presence of children in the household.
Results : At baseline, half of the sample experienced very low food security. Over 1 year, Food Pharmacy Network patients were less than half as likely to experience very low food security, increased self-sufficiency by 5.2 points, and increased fruits and vegetables by 1.5 servings per day compared to the control group, all outcomes p< 0.01.
Conclusions : Our research demonstrates that Food Pharmacies are a more effective model to promote food security than short-term assistance through traditional food banks by addressing the underlying causes of poverty. The research provides convincing evidence of increased self-sufficiency and support for growth and scaling of the program to other areas.
Funding Sources : Rawlings Presidential Research Scholars Program
Public Service Center Scholars Program
Clinton Global Initiative University