United Way of Western Connecticut announced the award of $1,050,000 through Congressionally Directed Spending to launch a food as medicine ‘Greater Danbury Food Farmacy’ initiative in partnership with Nuvance Health and Connecticut Institute for Communities (CIFC). Funding comes because of support from United States Senator Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal. The Food Farmacy aims to improve health outcomes and food security amongst Nuvance Health and CIFC clients experiencing diet-related comorbidities who also screen positive for food insecurity.
A press conference was held at the Connecticut Institute for Communities where the Food Farmacy will be located this fall. Senator Blumenthal, Senator Murphy, Comptroller Sean Scanlon, CT DSS Deputy Commissioner Peter Hadler, Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito, Senator Julie Kushner, Representatives Farley Santos and Anne Hughes, as well as dozens of others showed their support in attendance.
Food pharmacies are community-based sites designed to increase access to and consumption of healthful foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, for those individuals diagnosed with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and/or hypertension. The Food Farmacy will be a grocery-style food pantry co-located with the Connecticut Institute for Communities’ Community Center (“CIFC”) in downtown Danbury. Physicians and health care providers will “prescribe” healthy foods over a nine-month period for 100 patients that are screened as food insecure and identified as experiencing hypertension.
“Innovation lies at the heart of our work, and this grant allows us to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible by launching the Greater Danbury Food Farmacy,” said Isabel Almeida, President of United Way of Western Connecticut. “We firmly believe that the key to a thriving community is the health and well-being of its residents. With this in mind, we will leverage the resources provided by this grant to strengthen the connection between health and food insecurity. By collaborating with Nuvance Health, CT Institute for Communities, Community Action Agency of Western CT, UConn Extension, and countless other community partners, the Food Farmacy will help to address the underlying factors affecting the health of our community members.”
Identified individuals will be given a prescription which can be “filled” at the Food Farmacy twice a month and complemented by accessing United Way’s Healthy Savings fresh produce benefits, which includes $10 per week for participants to use on fresh produce at participating retailers. Participants will have access to a dietitian, program administrator, community health worker, and social worker , link them with other wrap-around social service supports, as well as monthly healthy meal preparation classes. UConn Extension educators will offer clients monthly healthy cooking and nutrition education courses to be paired with cooking equipment starter kits to encourage healthy eating at home. A dedicated physician and data analyst will monitor program impacts on patient outcomes. This integrated approach not only addresses a patient’s nutritional needs but also helps to identify other social or structural determinants of health impacting the patient’s overall well-being.
“We all have in common the need for good nutrition. It is vital not only to enjoy life but being productive in life particularly for our children. That’s why this program is so inspiring and exciting,” said Senator Blumenthal. “It is a model for the whole state.”
“This approach has the ability to be a model; not just because we are providing a more direct connection between patients and the food that they need but because [United Way of Western Connecticut] have decided inside this model to provide wraparound services,” said Senator Murphy. “When we got this application, we were so excited to fund this partnership and we’re excited to see what the results are. I have a feeling that [United Way of Western Connecticut] is going to paint a path forward for how we bring this kind of model to more people.”
“Understanding the connection between food insecurity and access to transportation, stable housing, employment, education, and healthcare becomes crucial as these social drivers of health play an important role in healthcare inequities,” said Dr. Brenda Ayers of Nuvance Health. “The foods we eat can be a big part of the root cause of some of these [nutrition-sensitive] illnesses, it can also be a big part of the solution and even part of the prevention of diseases. Healthy, nutritious food becomes the intervention that sits at the intersection of nutrition and healthcare; that is to say the intervention of food as medicine.”
“We applaud the United Way, Nuvance Health, and CIFC for this creative and holistic approach that will help households get a strong foundation for better nutrition and improved long-term health,” said Peter Hadler, Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Social Services. “We are very excited to watch the Food Farmacy in action so that we can learn and expand on this concept.”
“I'm here today to represent the City of Danbury to say thank you. This working relationship with [United Way of Western Connecticut] and the City of Danbury makes Danbury a better and safer place for our residents,” said Mayor Dean Esposito.
“We are thankful to have such strong partners in both the United Way of Western Connecticut and Nuvance Health. Our partnerships with both orgs are extensive and long-established,” said Kate Curran CEO of Connecticut Institute for Communities. “I can definitively say that we are stronger because of how well we’ve collaborated over the years.”
“It’s organizations like the Connecticut Institute for Communities, United Way of Western Connecticut, and Nuvance [Health] that come in to fill a void that we don’t have as a community here,” said Representative Farley Santos. “These $1 million dollars will go a long way in helping a community that does not have access to healthy eating, healthy living...Having this resource to fill the void that we have here in Danbury is an amazing thing.”
To learn more about the Food Farmacy initiative, visit www.uwwesternct.org/food-farmacy.