It is well documented that a well-balanced, nutritious diet can have a positive impact on health outcomes. However, eating healthier is more expensive than purchasing less nutrient-dense, more highly processed foods. For those battling chronic medical conditions while trying to make ends meet, the cost of healthier food presents a barrier on the path toward improved health. Food As Medicine strives to remove that barrier so patients can focus on wellness.

The Food Bank is proud to announce the expansion of our Food As Medicine (FAM) program to reach more people in the communities we serve. In partnership with healthcare providers Garnet Health, Saratoga Community Health, and St. Peter’s Hospital, FAM programs now serve residents in Albany, Saratoga, Orange, and Sullivan counties. This work is made possible by a generous 3-year grant from the Empire BlueCross Foundation.

FAM is designed to provide increased access to healthy foods to food insecure individuals diagnosed with diet-sensitive chronic conditions. Conditions that frequently generate referrals into FAM include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and kidney disease.

Our FAM program has 2 facets:

  • Emergency food pantry: When patients are discharged from the hospital and report that there is minimal food to go home to, healthcare providers can provide them with an emergency bag of food. These bags contain healthy food tailored to patients’ nutritional needs, in addition to referrals to community providers who can offer ongoing support.
  • Continuing nutrition education: Patients are enrolled in regular nutrition education and counseling classes tailored to their chronic disease. At the close of each class, each participant receives a bag of food customized to their nutritional needs. Bags often include recipes and quick tips to reinforce strategies and habits to help mitigate their chronic condition.

In 2023, our FAM programs distributed 40,000 meals to patients referred into the program.  Integral to these meals was 10,000 pounds of fresh produce; produce that is packed with vitamins and minerals and directly linked to improved health. This produce is often the highlight of food bags for patients whose tight food budgets rarely allow for fresh produce.

The impact of the program is felt by every individual who receives a food bag, say Dr. Renee Rodriguez-Goodemote, Medical Director at Saratoga Community Health Center: “The FAM partnership with the Regional Food Bank has been a tremendous resource for our patients. It gives them an opportunity to try new nutritious food options and increases their success in achieving health related goals. It is a win all around.”

We are proud of the work of FAM over the past year and look forward to additional expansion to support more people, in more communities in the coming year.