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Some Minnesota clinics offer food for health gains
Question of the Day
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Some Minnesota clinics have come up with a simple prescription for improving their patients’ health: food.
Research shows hungry children are hospitalized more often. They’re at higher risk for developmental problems. Their mothers are more likely to be depressed. Yet hunger rarely comes up when those families see a doctor.
Dr. Diana Cutts, a pediatrician at Hennepin County Medical Center who studies the ties between food and health, told Minnesota Public Radio (http://bit.ly/1jD7u3S ) that at any given time at least a quarter of her patients don’t have enough food.
Some clinics operate their own food banks or offer food deliveries, but programs that use food to try to improve patient health are relatively new. This summer, Lakewood Heath System in Staples will offer free community supported agriculture shares to low-income families with children.
Cutts said she doubts she would have realized the extent of the problem if she hadn’t started screening her patients for signs of hunger.
Health care providers, she said, need to “admit that this might be something important that you’re not thinking about.”
In 2010, Cutts launched a food bank at HCMC to supplement her patients’ diets with healthy food that isn’t always available at community food shelves. The program now supplies the equivalent of 7,000 to 8,000 meals a week to patients. The medical center recently began tailoring its food bags to meet the needs of elderly and diabetic patients.
That includes 69-year-old Fannie Mae Anderson of Minneapolis, who got a bag of groceries during a recent visit. Without it, Anderson said she would be eating a lot more potatoes and hot dogs because that’s what she can afford. Those high-calorie foods make it harder for her to control her diabetes.
Most efforts to use the health care system in the fight against hunger rely heavily on grants, volunteers and significant organizational commitments. The community supported agriculture project in Staples found a partner in HungerFree Minnesota, which is contributing $25,000.
“I’m more than willing to give that a shot,” said David Dayhoff, director of partnership engagement and advocacy for HungerFree Minnesota. “Because if it helps be a pilot example that proves this case that the health care setting has this special role to play in helping food insecure Minnesotans, then that’s something we want to build out a little more.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org
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