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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UTHealth: Food Prescriptions Could be Answer to Food Insecurity According to New Study

The answer to food insecurity could be as simple as a prescription for healthy food from your health care provider and the means to obtain it, particularly in food deserts, said researchers led by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health.

The two-year study focused on north Pasadena, Texas, where food insecurity is one of the highest in Harris County, said senior author Dr. Shreela V. Sharma.

“Many health care systems are now screening their patients for food security,” Dr. Sharma said. “But there are challenges. What do you do when you find out they are food insecure?”

To answer that question, participants who were identified as food insecure at their clinics received a “food prescription” card from their providers to use at food pantries located in north Pasadena every two weeks. They received as much as 30 pounds of fruits and vegetables and four forms of nonperishable foods. The pantry resembled a small grocery store to reduce the stigma associated with going to a food pantry and was stocked with food obtained from the Houston Food Bank.

Of the 242 patients who opted to take part in the program, 172 (71.1 percent) redeemed the food prescription at the pantry at least once and of those who redeemed their prescriptions, 99 percent reported eating all or most of the fruits and vegetables. More than 94 percent felt that the produce helped them eat healthier.

“The biggest triumph is that the pantry continues to operate today,” said Dr. Sharma. “Food insecurity stems from lack of access. The shift is providing access to healthy food and teaching people how to use it.”

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