Hospital Spotlight: ProMedica Works to Eliminate Food Disparities

Posted on December 06, 2018

Hospital SpotlightRural communities often face adversity, particularly due to a lack of resources. Limited access to healthcare and food play a crucial role in health disparities and social determinants of health.

An estimated 6 percent of rural populations travel up to 20 miles to reach a grocery store. A lack of transportation often makes the issue even more troublesome. In addition, roughly 11 percent of Michigan’s Lenawee County residents face some type of food insecurity.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in five Lenawee County residents live in a food desert, which is defined as a location that has limited access to grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other food providers.

The ProMedica Farms hoop house was donated by the Eisenhower Center in November 2017ProMedica Farms is aiming to tackle those numbers by providing affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to Lenawee County residents.

An idea borne out of growing food insecurity rates from a community health needs assessment in the early 2000s has transformed into a three-acre farm, hoop house and Veggie Mobile, which is a van that delivers low cost produce weekly to 24 stops throughout the county.

The farm and Veggie Mobile are available to all Lenawee County residents. However, ProMedica Bixby and Herrick Hospital patients who screen positive for food insecurities receive a box of food and a voucher to redeem produce at the Veggie Mobile so that they are not leaving ProMedica’s care worried about where they will get their next meal.

The two food insecurity questions were recently built into ProMedica’s electronic medical records as part of a more robust patient questionnaire that allows the organization to gain greater insight into the health needs of its communities.

“We want to identify patient and community member needs through screenings,” said Frank Nagle, manager of population health, ProMedica Bixby and Herrick Hospitals. “We started with food insecurities but now we’re starting to look broader into other domains of Social Determinants of Health, like housing and transportation needs.”

The Veggie Mobile was launched in 2013 to increase access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables in Lenawee’s rural communities. Its mission has been successful, as nearly 6,000 adult customers were served, and 2,150 pounds of food were donated in 2017. 

The hoop house was donated by the Eisenhower Center in November 2017, with the goal to grow produce virtually year-round. Located in Ann Arbor, the Eisenhower Center provides expert traumatic brain injury rehabilitation and care.  ProMedica Farms and the hoop house also provide areas for education and rehabilitation. Children can see food develop from a seed planted in the soil to food on the table and patients in need of physical or occupational therapy can enjoy the serenity of nature as they improve their health and wellbeing.

“We’ve really threaded the community together with this initiative,” said Nagle. “We continually work with local farmers to source produce and sell at more affordable prices for the community. We are working with the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to build out education and access components for youth, families and adults on how to sustain positive lifestyle choices and changes. We’ve found ways to connect two ProMedica hospitals with the communities they serve and break down barriers to improve healthcare.”

This article was featured in the MHA Keystone Center Newsletter. To subscribe, please contact Ashley Sandborn, MHA Keystone Center communications specialist.


  • Hospital Spotlight: ProMedica Works to Eliminate Food Disparities

Tags: ProMedica, rural health, food insecurity

Posted in: Patient Safety & Quality

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