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A Hospital That Prescribes Free Nutritious Meals to Households Who Want Extra Than Medical Care

By Diana Cuy Castellanos, Dayton University

Being food insecure – not being able to get enough nutritious foods to meet your needs – can damage your health. So Dayton Children’s Hospital has begun screening its patients and their families for this problem and referring them to what it calls “Food Pharm”.

This program, which started about two years ago, currently aims to provide about 55 families per month with enough healthy foods such as whole wheat pasta, beans, and green beans to feed a family of four for three days while eating them with others combine resources to help them get through the rest of the week.

Care is also taken to ensure that this one-time donation of nutritious food is culturally appropriate, meaning that people know how to prepare and consume the food they receive, and that it is appropriate to their culture and beliefs. For example, it is culturally inappropriate to give tofu to people if they have never seen it before or cooked with it, or to give pork to devout Muslims.

The participating families receive a box with fruit, vegetables, dairy products, proteins and cereals. Help is also available to families if they are eligible to enroll in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and take nutrition classes. The Food Pharm also connects patients’ families with pantries near their homes so they can have more access to free groceries on a regular basis.

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