Sometimes I like to peruse online health articles, just to see what’s new, especially in the land of treatment for type 2 diabetes. When I stumbled across a story about the Fresh Food Pharmacy (FFP), I was immediately intrigued.
What is Fresh Food Pharmacy (FFP)?
This “pharmacy” is at a hospital in central Pennsylvania, part of the Geisinger Health System. About 180 people got to pilot this program before the official FFP opened last May, and their results were impressive.
Each week, participants were given free healthy food, enough to last for five days. They were also given recipes, hands-on cooking lessons, even classes on wellness.
This program was specifically designed for those who are food-insecure, and therefore the most likely to have lack of access to fresh, healthy food.
Though it’s estimated that the program costs $1000 per year per patient, it’s actually still way cheaper than traditional medical care. For instance, for each point that a patient’s A1C goes down, about $8000 per year in medical costs are saved—and the average person who was on this program for one year saw their number go down by 3 points!
This program also gives each participant enough food for the whole family, which helps everyone stay on track long term.
Clearly, this program is amazing, though very few people have access to anything like it. How can you get the same results, even if you’re not a food-insecure patient living in central Pennsylvania?
Tips to re-create FFP
Make your shelves look like those of the Fresh Food Pharmacy. According to the articles I read, the FFP is stocked like a regular grocery store, but with only diabetes-friendly choices. These include things like whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, etc.), fresh fruits and vegetables (nothing canned in sugary syrup), lean proteins, low fat dairy, and beans.
You can do the same thing in your house by removing (as much as possible) processed snack foods, white breads and pastas, sugary drinks and desserts, and highly processed meat products, then replacing them with choices more like those mentioned above.
You can also replicate the FFP by taking a healthy cooking class. If you aren’t sure what to do with that quinoa or bag of lentils, look for a class that’s specifically for healthy eating or even vegetarian eating. If there’s nothing local, find something online; there are tons of tutorials and recipes that make use of these foods.
Also, consider working with a registered dietitian. One of the great things about the program that the FFP is running is that there is continuous diabetes education and all of the patients get help figuring out what to eat and why it’s good for them. Working with a registered dietitian, even for a little while, can help you get the same thing.
Lastly, get the support you need to stay on track! The patients in this program were almost constantly supported, which many patients don’t have. Look for friends who are on the same quest to eat healthier, join a group online or in real life, or ask your physician if they know of any additional support resources you can use.