Farmington — A pilot program got a big boost Tuesday, September 13, with a $350,000 donation from Hannaford Stores and the Hannaford Charities.
Food as Medicine is a pilot program that prioritizes healthy, fresh, and nutritious foods as part of a comprehensive health care plan for individuals and families with chronic health conditions who are under-resourced. The program is through the Franklin Community Health Network, which includes Franklin Memorial Hospital.
“At MaineHealth, our vision is to work with our communities for the health of all,” said Trumpas Hutches, president of the Franklin Community Health Network. “Food insecurity is one of our top priorities. Our food is one of the most underrated drugs, and it has a lot to do with the health outcomes we experience from the disease process. I am excited to announce this partnership.”
The Hannaford donation is part of a new initiative, Eat Well, Be Good – A Pathway to Better Health that will highlight the importance of nutritious food and long-term wellness in a county with a history of food insecurity and chronic disease, Todd Boleyn, said Hannaford Supermarkets Vice President retail operations.
“Hanaford is part of the Maine fabric,” he noted. “We have a long-standing commitment to nourishing our communities, especially when it comes to improving access to food and meals for those who need it most.”
Bolin stated that the donation is part of a larger donation of more than $1.5 million that stretches across New York and New England. He noted that “Food as Medicine” emphasizes the importance of a nutrient-rich diet, which is a critical component of healthcare especially for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes or other health conditions.
“At Hannaford, we believe healthy, fresh food is a critical component to ensuring the strength of our communities and future success,” Bullen added.
“People ask us what food is like medicine,” said Dr. Dora-Ann Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth. “We as doctors and patients know that medicine is something we take to improve our health. What we are learning more and more is that we can also use food as a way to improve our health.”
Mills talked about her first experience eating kale, which “wasn’t a good experience” and how she had to learn ways to prepare it.
“It took some work with the people who taught me,” she stated. “I learned how to make it taste good. It improves your health, and I know it’s healthier for me. This is the basic concept of food as medicine.”
“We’re trying to make sure that people have access to the nutritious foods that help improve their health but also the tools and education that goes with it and also looking at how to build a community.”
There are two components of food as medicine. The first sees providing healthy meals to people in the area who have been discharged from hospital with heart problems. The second is a pantry that will provide the foods and tools needed to learn how to prepare them.
Mills said the impact of the program would be evaluated. “We believe that food as medicine is a strategy that we can learn from,” she stressed. “It’s the wave of the future.”
Mills added that the Good Shepherd Food Bank is another partner for Food as a Medicine.
Food as medicine also looks to:
• Increased access to healthy foods
• Increase knowledge and skills related to lifestyles such as physical activity, alertness and healthy eating through the provision of education classes and hands-on cooking
• Increasing social bonding in bringing people together to support each other.
“Cooking Matters is a hands-on cooking class supported by Hannaford and the Good Shepherd Food Bank,” said LeeAnna Lavoie, director of the Healthy Community Alliance for Greater Franklin County. “Living Healthy for Better Health is a health management chapter for chronic diseases that focuses on looking at symptoms of chronic diseases and planning action.”
Lavoie said there are 10 patients registered for a third session and another 11 participants starting on September 20.
“As we’ve heard from others, the crucial links between chronic disease and food security cannot be ignored,” said Dr. Emily Keeler, part of the planning committee and a physician at Stevens Memorial Hospital in Norway. “To prevent an increase in chronic diseases in the community as a whole, we need to recognize the underlying (factors) that exist outside the hospital. That is why this program is so important, because it bridges this gap.”
Keeler noted that in the few weeks that the program went live, some patients were already beginning to receive benefits.
Anne Glazier and her husband Charles of Romford participate in the “Food as Medicine” sessions on Wednesday afternoon and evening. She has health problems that require a special diet. She had to give up garlic and onions, something she would normally cook with that made her upset.
“Food as a Medicine, referred to as FAM, has become family for us,” Glazier said.
She loves formatting that includes classroom, hands-on cooking, and shopping. She noted that the Healthy Community Alliance pantry is stocked with whole foods and garden-fresh foods.
Hannaford inspiration products wow Glazier.
“In our class we’re talking about shopping economically,” she said.
She stated that the Hannaford rewards program is used by many people.
“In these times, it’s important to have all kinds of techniques to reduce what we spend and be able to eat healthy meals.”
Teachers Cathy Doyon and David Scammon then talked about one of the meals prepared in the hands-on classes, and then exchanged samples with the audience.
“That’s fine,” said Senator Russell Black of Wilton.
The pantry is now located in the Health Community Alliance office, and the pantry will soon be in a new location in the Greenwood Building on the Franklin Memorial Hospital campus. Kitchen and classroom spaces will be available there.
“[Food As Medicine] Glazer said. “He’s been in the kitchen with me, it’s really fun being together, learning what we can eat together, so I don’t do anything separate from what it is. [eating]. “