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University Hospitals introduces Food for Life Market giving patients access to food necessities

It's part of a holistic nutrition program that helps to address food insecurity.

CLEVELAND — University Hospitals is unveiling its new UH Food for Life Market at UH Cleveland Medical Center today. It is part of a holistic nutrition program that helps to address food insecurity. The program will also help to address chronic health conditions that might be impacted by access to healthy food.

We are streaming today's ribbon-cutting ceremony live in the player at the top of this story.

The market will feature fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, meat, whole grains and more.

“The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the structural systems of oppression in our country, only compound the disproportionate risk of food insecurity for our Black and Brown neighbors. University Hospitals understands that addressing these social determinants of health will have greater impact on the overall health outcomes of our community than the actual treatment of disease,” said Celina Cunanan, Interim Executive Director, UH Office of Community Impact, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. 

“Some of the most jarring images over the course of the pandemic have been those of endless cars lined up at food banks and distribution centers around the country. 

"Those images stirred an awakening in our country about the fragility of food security for so many of our fellow citizens.

"As the clinical lead for this program, I am proud that our UH system is prioritizing the addressing of food insecurity through our Food For Life Markets,” said Cunanan.

When a patient at UH Cleveland Medical Center is identified as food-insecure, they will get a referral from their doctor to visit the UH Food for Life Market, where they will receive a week's worth of healthy food free of charge. They will also meet privately with a registered dietitian, who will help with healthy recipes, meal tips and cooking demonstrations.

“The UH Food for Life Market focuses on the direct connection between food and a person’s health,” said Anne Leach, registered dietitian and Director, Clinical and Community Nutrition at Sodexo Healthcare, who has worked on behalf of UH to establish the UH Food for Life Market. “UH has implemented a preventive food-as-medicine model to address food insecurity, which we know, if prolonged or repeated, can have negative health consequences.”

This will be the second Food for Life Market that UH has opened. The first opened its doors in October 2018 in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood, housed within the Otis Moss, Jr. Health Center. That neighborhood is a food desert and has been defined as an impoverished area by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health's Creating Healthy Communities program and the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. That market has distributed almost 86,000 pounds of food to 1,425 people since it opened.

A second Food for Life Market opened at UH Portage Medical Center in February 2021, and has served 90 households so far.

The UH Cleveland Medical Center location will initially be open Monday through Friday, with appointments encouraged.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video in the player below is from a previous story.