For Good: Humana prescribes access to fresh, healthy choices in local food desertsFoundation invests in Feeding Tampa Bay

Fill those baskets with apples, oranges, and rutabagas: Thanks to the Feeding Tampa Bay Food Pharmacy program and a recent Humana Foundation award, more prescriptions for nutrition will be filled. The Foundation’s $640,500 investment in Feeding Tampa Bay stokes local efforts to bring healthy food to those in need. Specifically, the residents of the Lealman neighborhood of north St. Petersburg stand to benefit.

“At Humana, we work to seek out innovative solutions that make the greatest possible impact across a community,” says Humana Foundation Senior Program Director Leslie Clements. Clements also serves as a manager of the Humana Foundation’s Strategic Community Investment Portfolio (SCIP).

One such solution is rooted in the recognition that healthy eating can lead to better health outcomes. That’s where the concept of a food pharmacy, in essence, a food bank stocked with wholesome options, comes into play. A diabetic isn’t helped by a diet of snack cakes, for example; a patient suffering from hypertension should eschew excessive salt. For many, such advice isn’t so easy to follow.

Lealman is considered a ‘food desert.’ Here, it can be difficult to find readily available produce and other fresh ingredients. The food pharmacy concept makes it easier. Community Health Centers of Pinellas will be pivotal in this work by making foods more accessible to those who might otherwise go without. To obtain a ‘prescription,’ clinic visitors are screened. Those who qualify are given specific dietary recommendations and the ability to obtain appropriate items.

Nutrition is on wheels in the area; a mobile market regularly brings fresh options into the Lealman neighborhood. Clements sees this accessibility as paramount to the program’s success. She points to a widely-held truism -- that diet affects health and wellbeing - as a vital reason for the program’s existence. Access to nourishing food can make a huge difference, she says. 

This isn’t the first time The Humana Foundation has focused its generosity on Tampa Bay. In 2018, it provided more than 2,500 people facing food insecurity with ‘prescription nutrition.’ The current investment builds upon that effort. Tampa is one of eight cities to receive the Humana Foundation’s Strategic Community Investment. Contracts are signed for the duration of one year, and the Foundation works with partner organizations to identify metrics and gauge success. Further funding opportunities will be available to continue the programs, which are tailored to each participating community.
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Amy Hammond is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida
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