University Hospitals opens new market addressing food insecurity in Portage

University Hospitals Portage Medical Center opened a new Food For Life market to address food insecurity in the county and bring more food into people’s homes. 

Food insecurity is when there is not enough food for everyone in a household to live an active and healthy life, and the number of people in need increased about 30 percent in Portage County due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We know that for our patients that are food insecure, if it’s prolonged or repeated, it may have negative consequences,” said Anne Leach, director of clinical and community nutrition at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Proper nutrition and food intake can help prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, Leach said.  

While the market is piloting for specific physician groups, all University Hospitals patients may qualify for the market if they screen positive for one of two questions involving food insecurity. 

“If you’ve had enough money in the last 12 months to get groceries, to get food, and if not, did you have the means to get food?” Leach said.

Qualified patients will have access to the Food For Life market one time a month for up to six months. The market  contains a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, frozen meats and a registered dietitian. 

“The dietitian is there to do an informal one-on-one consultation with the patient and provide recipes, handouts. It’s really a great experience,” Leach said.  

If patients still need assistance after their visit, they can meet with their primary care physician and get another referral to the market. But, UH said the market aims to accomplish more than provide food. 

“We’re here for that education piece… so that we can help them control their diabetes, control hypertension, control their weight,” Leach said. 

University Hospitals hopes to open a third center in Northeast Ohio due to the extensive area the hospital serves. The Portage Food For Life market has already helped 25 people and expects to help about 50 families each month. 

Currently, the Portage location is open Wednesdays and Thursdays by appointment only. 

Jenna Borthwick is a TV2 Reporter. Contact her at [email protected].