KDA, Kentucky Hospital Association to Partner for New ‘Food Is Medicine’ Healthy Living Campaign

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The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is joining forces with the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) to develop a “Food is Medicine” campaign focusing on the power of food and its connection to healthier living.

“Access to nutritious food is critical to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Commissioner Jonathan Shell said. “Advocating that connection between food and health is essential to meeting the goal of less chronic disease and longer lifespans. But it’s more than a message about choosing the right foods, it’s also a message about expanding our food distribution networks within the agriculture industry.”

Through increasing access to local, healthy food options, KDA and Kentucky’s hospitals are crafting plans for a positive impact on communities across the state.

“We appreciate Commissioner Shell’s leadership and dedication to bringing this work to the forefront,” said Nancy Galvagni, President and CEO of the Kentucky Hospital Association.

“Kentucky’s hospitals work every day to improve the health of our citizens and this new collaboration between KHA and the Department of Agriculture will elevate ways in which hospitals throughout Kentucky can address the social drivers of health facing our Commonwealth.”

This collaboration recognizes that high-quality nourishment is essential for well-being. Richer nourishment can result in healthier lifestyles, improved health, and long-term positive results for individuals and communities.

Recognizing nutritious need is one part of the overall goal, while creating consistent access to healthy food is another critical component.

As lead of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Shell will help Kentucky hospital officials with connection to local producers giving them access to nutritious food closer to their hospital locations.

“Creating these local connections means food spends more time on the vine, in the ground, or on the tree before it reaches its destination.” Shell said. “When it comes to fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, the shorter time and distance from the farm to its destination, the higher the levels of vitamins and minerals.”

Despite the value of local food, a recent survey completed by representatives of 50 hospital systems across the state found that only about 2 percent of the hospital’s budget is spent on local food. The overall average percentage of local food being served at these same hospitals was 15 percent.

As part of the “Food is Medicine” campaign, a work group including KDA, KHA, eight health systems, and other key organizations will study how hospitals can play a key role in prescribing food as medicine to patients by creating more access to healthier and local foods.

“As the largest provider of care in southeastern Kentucky, our responsibility goes beyond treating illness,” said Hollie Harris, Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) President and CEO. “We want to help people live healthier lives, and that starts with access to healthy foods. I’m excited about the opportunities Commissioner Shell’s ‘Food is Medicine’ initiative will provide and proud to co-chair this effort. Together, we can create partnerships to address our state’s troubling health statistics and make fresh, locally grown foods more available in our communities.”

Five areas of campaign will include:

  • Looking at the food a hospital is serving to patients;
  • Creating partnerships between hospitals and local farmers;
  • Connecting patients with resources to a consistent healthy food resource;
  • Creating outreach for patients who need a special diet, for example, diabetes patients, and could benefit from having a resource to fresh food; and
  • Expanding existing initiatives that connect Kentuckians to healthy food options.

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