Clinicians at Highland Hospital’s Pediatric Medical Clinic, upon seeing the nationwide childhood obesity epidemic being seen locally among their young patients, knew a solution needed to be found. And quickly, before diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and asthma followed these children into adulthood, or before they suffered social stigma at school or on the playground. After all, bullying is no child’s friend.
The Food Is Medicine was launched in 2011, and today is a resounding success thanks to a potent cocktail of ingredients: whole-family engagement and structured educational sessions, incentive samples of healthy food for program enrollees, and a cultural sensitivity that addressed ways to make foods of many cultures healthier and enjoyable for the entire family, all on a very low-income budget.
Learn about Food Is Medicine’s impact on one family’s life:
Alameda Health System Foundation and its community funders helped provide the philanthropic funding to formalize the pilot program and make it an ongoing one. Donations to the Foundation for the Food Is Medicine Program help on an ongoing basis to fund the weekly “Grub Boxes” distributed through our local partner People’s Grocery, and also help with other materials for classes in multiple languages.
Why This Program Matters
Alameda Health System (AHS) serves a patient population with a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity than the county overall. While the overall rate of childhood obesity in Alameda County is 22%, shocking enough, it grows to 28% for Latinos and 24% for African Americans, population segments that mirror that of many pediatric patients.
Add to this the many challenges of low income families: lack of easy access to grocery stores and healthy foods close to home, lack of travel resources and lack of time – especially if parents are working two to three low-wage jobs to survive. Another barrier is limited knowledge of the link between nutrition and health, and the challenge of preparing healthy meals with limited time and resources.
So far the Food Is Medicine classes have “graduated” more than 75 families. Results were positive with potential long-lasting benefits: more than 70% of the kids maintained or decreased their Body Mass Index (weight relative to height), and had significant improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar levels—two key indicators of pre-diabetes. Youth and their parents also demonstrated greater appreciation of the importance of eating healthy. They now know of how to prepare healthy snacks and meals, and have better eating habits for long-term health.
Get Involved, Make a Difference Locally
You can help ensure Food Is Medicine’s ongoing success by supporting Alameda Health System Foundation. Besides supporting current needs, more donations will help the Health System expand the program to clinics in other regions of our county.