Huntington Hospital unveiled its Food as Heath program Tuesday, designed to ensure that nutrition is part of a patient’s return home.
Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of the hospital, numerous staffers who work in patient care nd nutritional services, and several town officials participated in the ceremony to launch the program.
He said that last year, after the hospital convened educators, faith organizations, law enforcement officials, community groups and others to assess social issues affecting health, the consensus was that food insecurity was a primary problem.
“What does our community need? ” Fitterman said the group was asked to determine. “We went from unaware to aware to action” by developing this program. The hospital is also following what he called a “perfect template” at the Dolan Family Health Center that already provides similar services.
Patients leaving the hospital who are identified through screening as in need of food assistance are sent home with a bag of food and connected to resources, such as a local food pantry, that can help them in the future. Those with health problems related to nutrition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, receive a consultation on food choices and health, as well as food.
“We are not a food bank, but we are a bridge to resources,” Fitterman said, noting that the hospital had hired more registered dietitians and added food through philanthropic donations. “But social determinants, such as food, environmental pollutants and so on, play a much bigger role in people’s health than hospital care.”
And, he said, the need for food in suburbia is greater than many people realize.