Hartford Hospital offers patients healthy food to take home for free

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new program within Hartford Hospital is helping people get healthy, but not with medicine. Instead, it offers patients healthy food to take home.

It looks like a small supermarket, but it is actually part of Hartford Hospital. Last week, doctors started referring certain patients here for healthier food. It’s free, they can take as much as they want, and learn some recipes, too.

“If patients qualify in our office, they get a referral from our nutritionist,” said Dr. Jessica Mullins, Hartford Hospital’s director of gynecology. “They will get some education for the education piece, and they’ll get a referral to here.”

The idea is good nutrition can be just as important as medicine, especially for the pregnant women Dr. Mullins treats.

“These babies, who have moms with food insecurity, are more likely to have obesity, cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes,” Mullins said.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear just how many people are food insecure. Hundreds lined up at food giveaways, many for the first time. The need continues for many. Hartford hospital has partnered with Foodshare, as well as some local farmers to get the food, and all of it is good for you.

“We have olive oil instead of corn oil or vegetable oil,” said David Juros, a food medicine consultant with Hartford Hospital. “We have brown rice, we have whole wheat pasta. Everything in here is healthy.”

The reason this program is necessary is not so much that people are going hungry and not getting any food at all. Instead, it’s the fact that the food available in urban settings is largely processed food, stuff with sugar added. That is why the first things you see in this Hartford Hospital room are fresh fruits and vegetables.

“There is food available, but it’s not the healthy food that we need our patients to have to increase their health or their family’s health over time,” said David Fichandler, the senior director of clinical operations for Hartford Hospital.

“With our prenatal patients, we can really make a huge impact on the lifelong health of the moms as well as the babies,” Mullins said.

They hope to expand to 250 patients by the end of the year, but that is just the beginning. Success at Hartford Hospital may mean more hospital grocery departments all over Connecticut.

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