Bronx Health REACH Partners with Corbin Hill Food Project and Mount Sinai Health System to Bring Farm Fresh Produce to Bronx Residents through the Food As Medicine Project
Morrisania WIC in the Bronx hosts a Farm Share Program.
The Food as Medicine project (FAM), led by Harlem-based Corbin Hill Food Project, will measure the impact of a produce prescription program to reduce food insecurity and improve health. Corbin Hill Food Project, a BIPOC-led, community-based organization, is the first in New York State to receive a significant USDA food as medicine grant. In partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the Institute for Family Health’s Bronx Health REACH Project, FAM will collect data on dietary health and behavior and reduction of household food insecurity with the long term goal to reduce healthcare use and associated costs.
The Food As Medicine project, supported by a Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, Produce Prescription grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), builds upon Corbin Hill Food Project’s decade of experience bringing farm fresh produce to New York City residents.
Project Director of Bronx Health REACH Charmaine Ruddock said, “The Food as Medicine Project recognizes that the more patients hear from their health providers about the importance of daily eating more fruits and vegetables, and then have ready access to affordable fruits and vegetables the likelier they will be to improve their health. As we have done with our previous initiative, the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription program, partnership with Corbin Hill Food Project, will allow us to increase the opportunity for more Bronx residents to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their everyday meals.”
President and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, co-founder of Bronx Health REACH, and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Icahn Mount Sinai Neil Calman, MD said, “As a family physician who practiced in the South Bronx for 35 years, I am proud to participate in this effort to provide healthier food to members of the community. People want to do what’s best for themselves and their families and this program will help overcome some of the barriers that stand in their way in neighborhoods that have been historically neglected.”
“We design all aspects of the farm share to be as inclusive as possible to meet the needs of low-income, BIPOC, and immigrant communities,” says Dennis Derryck, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director of Corbin Hill Food Project, “and more critically, we get the buy-in from participants.” Participants buy-in for $2.50 weekly using either SNAP dollars or cash. For greater accessibility, FAM will be developing a home delivery model to serve participants 65 years and older and those who may be unable to travel. Additionally, the program is exploring options for providing tokens to cover a portion transportation costs, another barrier to accessing fresh food.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Corbin Hill Food Project sets a great example of connecting the dots between farmers and consumers as they work to bring local, fresh, nutritious foods to residents in their community. I send my sincere congratulations to our partners on the Corbin Hill team on receiving this USDA funding, and look forward to seeing the future of their Food as Medicine project and continued expansion.”
The program expands on prior efforts of partners, Mount Sinai and the Tisch Illumination Fund, to prescribe food as medicine and pave the way for larger initiatives that address health disparities linked to nutrition security and inequitable access to fresh foods. The FAM project will serve 260 families with bi-monthly produce boxes over 12 months across three sites in Harlem and the South Bronx.
The Food as Medicine project is timely, as New York State Department of Health is currently soliciting comments for a new Medicaid 1115 Waiver Demonstration proposal through May 20th, 2022. The proposal addresses the link between health disparities and systemic health care delivery issues that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 Pandemic and requests $13 billion in new Medicaid funding over five years. With social determinants of health like nutrition insecurity in low-income communities at the forefront of the 1115 Waiver Demonstration proposal, the FAM project could serve as a pilot model for future produce prescription programs, especially in urban settings.