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How Hurley Medical Center is tackling food insecurity to improve community health

Providing access to safe and nutritious food for better health outcomes

The health implications of food insecurity are far-reaching and sobering, ranging from increased incidence of chronic conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, to psychosocial deficiencies linked to developmental delays and learning and behavioral problems.

Alisa Craig, Administrator of Wellness and Population Health, recognized that some of the communities served by Hurley Medical Center had a food insecurity rate four times the national average, and many patients were unable to stay healthy because they were choosing between medicine and food. She turned to Advisory Board for help with developing a plan to combat food insecurity.

The following year, Hurley Medical Center launched its Food FARMacy program and served over 1,400 people in its first seven months of operation. These patients received not just food from the Food FARMacy, but also guidance from a dietitian and connections to community resources designed to permanently reverse food insecurity. Here’s how we helped Alisa design the program.

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A nationwide search for best practice

Advisory Board researchers studied successful food insecurity programs across the country to discover best practices for key program design elements including:

  • Patient identification and referral pathways
  • Engaging patients and providers
  • Range of service offered
  • Community partnerships
  • Staffing

Profiles of high-impact programs

Hurley reviewed profiles of five organizations with innovative and effective food insecurity initiatives.

The organizations profiled represented a broad range of interventions in terms of both patient population targeted and the level of resource intensity required for hospitals.

Learning first-hand from peers

Hurley leaders were introduced to peers at other organizations combating food insecurity. One of those was ProMedica, a 13-hospital health system in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

They conducted a site visit at ProMedica to learn about its range of food insecurity programs, which includes food pharmacies, a grocery store in a food desert, a mobile food van, and a summer feeding program.

people served by Hurley's Food FARMacy in the first seven months of operation
435 unique patients and their families received food and resources between August 2017 and February 2018
About Hurley's Food FARMacy

Hurley's Food FARMacy launched in August 2017 and quickly gained momentum, serving over 1,400 people in its first seven months.

How it works: Patients are assessed for food insecurity via the electronic medical record during an inpatient stay or a primary care clinic visit.

If eligible, the patient gets referred to the Food FARMacy and receives two days' worth of food (medically tailored to conditions and/or allergies) for his/her household, receives nutritional education from a dietitian, and is connected to community resources.

Patients can utilize this service twice per month for three months, and then are re-assessed.

[Patients'] relationship with their health care provider and their relationship with Hurley Medical Center as a trusted health care provider has been amazing. Ideally we are actually, truly changing their food insecurity—and not just a couple days at a time.

Alisa Craig

Administrator of Wellness and Population Health, Hurley Medical Center

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