College Hospital UH Meals for Life Market gives wholesome vitamin

The community has a new point of sale offering healthy foods and expert advice on how to prepare them in the new Food for Life Market at Portage Medical Center University Hospital.

Qualified food insecure patients can enter the market and receive a variety of fresh, canned, protein and dairy products.

“As many of you know, the coronavirus has hit everyone very hard,” said Bill Benoit, president of University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, at an opening ceremony on Wednesday. “It is especially difficult for those who suffer from the many social determinants of health. We fought here in the county too. “

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Benoit said 16.2% of the county is considered food insecure, a 30% increase from pre-pandemic.

UH doctors have found that repeated or persistent food insecurity “can have negative health consequences,” he added.

Portage Medical Center University Hospital President Bill Benoit thanked the staff who helped make the hospital's Food for Life market a reality at a small opening ceremony on Wednesday.

Anne Leach, director of clinical and community nutrition at UH, said people who have not had enough to eat in the past 12 months and have not had the funds to get more will qualify for the hospital’s Food for Life marketplace.

Benoit said it was modeled after a similar clinic at UH’s Otis Moss Jr. Health Clinic in Cleveland.

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“We asked for their support and they helped us create the program that we have here today,” he said.

The market includes a variety of canned vegetables, but also fresh products.

To facilitate market opening, UH Portage Medical’s Executive Committee donated $ 50,000 in the first year for start-up funding.

Leach said patients can get referrals from primary care practitioners and then go to market where a nutritionist can help them make healthy food choices.

“Patients are screened for food insecurity, given a referral, and can come once a month for a week for up to six months for a family of up to four,” she said.

If after six months they are still food insecure, they can have another referral from a doctor.

The market is right next to the main lobby of the UH Portage Medical Center in an area that was last used as a storage room.

Fresh products, canned goods, dairy products and proteins are now available to patients in three rooms. The food itself comes from the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank.

According to Leach and Lynann Colella, managers of nutritional services at UH Portage Medical Center, the Food for Life Market’s focus is on education and healthy foods.

“You have to work actively to change habits, and education is an important part of that,” said Colella.

Leach said that often people want to make healthy choices, but may not have the resources to buy fresh produce or meat, or they may not know how to prepare those products.

Colella said that many people who are unsure of buying much of their groceries are from dollar stores that sell processed foods and run out of products and other healthy alternatives.

The opening of the Food for Life Market in the UH Portage Medical Center celebrated from left: Ryann Kuchenbecker, Executive Director of the Ravenna Region Chamber of Commerce, Jill Oldham, Chief Medical Officer of the UH Portage Medical Center, Regional Foodbank Akron Canton Director of Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives Dr .  Benjamin Prestegaard, Dr.  John Gusz of UH Portage Medical Center, Dr.  Saneka Chakravarty from UH Portage Medical Center, Akron Canton Regional Foodbank Manager of Network Partners and Programs Nathan Kreis, Dr.  Frank Kelley of UH Portage Medical Center, UH Portage Bill Benoit, President of the Medical Center, Registered Dietitian and Director of Clinical and Community Nutrition at Sodexo Healthcare Anne Leach, and the Mayor of Ravenna Frank Seman.

“Based on what I saw, a lot of people bought there,” she said. “It’s nice that we now have Aldi and some other places that have fresh produce.”

Leach said the dietitians on duty in the market will help provide good food to people with certain conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and other conditions that require a particular diet.

They will also help encourage an overall change to better eating habits, even in those who do not have pre-existing health problems.

Leach and Colella said dietitians will provide a variety of materials, including recipes and prep materials, so that patients can not only make good choices in the market, but also go home and prepare delicious dishes using unfamiliar ingredients.

Jill Oldham, director of strategic partners and initiatives at Akron Canton regional food bank, said it is this element of education that distinguishes food supplies like UH’s Food for Life Market.

“Bringing food here makes it easier for people to learn about the resources available,” she said.

Due to COVID-19, the market is only available by deadline, but that may change at some point. It is usually open on Wednesdays half days and Thursdays all day.

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at [email protected] or @bobgaetjens_rc.

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