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Fresh Food Pharmacy Aims to Improve Health Outcomes for High-Risk Patients


When you need prescription medicine, you go to the pharmacy. When you’re prescribed a healthier diet – as some patients cared for at LVH–17th Street are – you receive a $20 voucher to select organic seasonal fruits and vegetables at the “food pharmacy,” better known as the Rodale Mobile Market. This project is a collaboration between LVH–17th Street and Rodale Institute and is funded through a Pool Trust Award for Community Transformational Excellence.

Food pharmacy = Access to healthy foods

Every Friday from June through Oct. 25, pediatric patients from the VHP–Children’s Clinic at Lehigh Valley Hospital and their families receive $20 vouchers from the food pharmacy program to spend at the Rodale Mobile Market. Participating families are considered at-risk for food insecurity and have at least one child with a diagnosis of obesity and/or type 2 diabetes. The families get to choose the vegetables they want from a wide array of seasonal produce.

In addition to the Children’s Clinic, LVHN Comprehensive Health Services also provides weekly fresh food vouchers for many of its patients who are living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing food insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Understanding barriers to fresh food

The goal of the food pharmacy pilot program is to get a better understanding of the barriers families face in accessing and preparing fruits and vegetables, and learn more about fresh food preferences, cultural food traditions and participation trends. This information will inform a more robust food pharmacy research study measuring improvements in blood sugar levels and weight to take place during the 2021 growing season. LVHN SELECT medical students are helping evaluate the families’ eating habits over time.

While the food pharmacy was conceptualized prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, its relevance has never been greater. The rate of COVID-19 infection in Allentown is five times higher than the overall rate in Pennsylvania, intensifying the social needs of many of our patients.

Public and colleagues also welcome

The Rodale Mobile Market is open for LVHN colleagues and the general public, and accepts all subsidies including WIC, double SNAP and Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons. Having the mobile market at LVH–17th Street makes it a convenient fresh food access point for hundreds of residents, patients and colleagues in Allentown.

When is the Rodale Mobile Market at LVH–17th Street?

Visit the Rodale Mobile Market on Fridays, 12–3 p.m., on the corner of 17th Street and Chew Street in Allentown, now through Oct. 25.

The Rodale team is complying with all Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control recommendations for safe food handling and social distancing at the Rodale Mobile Market.

Other ways LVH–17th Street helps its neighbors

Throughout the summer, Allentown children can count on a free lunch provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Program and available at LVH–17th Street School of Nursing building. This is the third consecutive year LVH–17th Street is participating, this year with the partnership of Morrison Healthcare, LVHN’s food services vendor. The healthy meals typically include a sandwich, a piece of fruit and milk.

When – Children can receive lunches Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. until Friday, Sept. 4.

Where – The program takes place on the front steps of LVH–17th Street School of Nursing building. During inclement weather, lunches will be handed out from the School of Nursing lobby.

Who – Any child in Allentown age 18 or younger is eligible to participate. No registration is required, and no personal information is collected.

COVID-19 safety

Lunches are “grab and go” in compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture and CDC guidelines for safe food handling. Caregivers can pick up lunches on behalf of their children; likewise, children can pick up lunches without a caregiver present.