By Sandra MacMartin, Public Affairs Specialist, FNS Midwest Region with Guest Author, Amanda Sweetman, Regional Director of Farming and Healthy Lifestyles for the Farm at Trinity Health
Can you imagine a day when healthcare is mostly proactive as opposed to reactive? Imagine if everyone has access to the vital conditions for health and wellbeing: the factors that people depend on to reach their full potential. What does that future look like?
One way we’ll know that we’ve achieved this future is that everyone will experience nutrition security – meaning they have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods that promote optimal health and well-being – and diet-related illnesses will no longer be the leading cause of death in the United States, especially for people of color who are historically at greatest risk.
That was the focus of our discussions in late March at the second regional Come to the Table summit on nutrition security and healthcare at Trinity Health in Ypsilanti, Michigan, hosted by ProMedica and The Root Cause Coalition. Alonzo Lewis, president of Trinity Health Ann Arbor, set the tone by encouraging the 150 stakeholders in attendance to build on the momentum of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health by strengthening the intersections between nutrition and healthcare.
In addition to panel discussions comprised of experts in various fields, there was a lively town hall which provided everyone an opportunity to add their voice and experience to the conversation on hunger as a health issue. All in the room acknowledged that as a country, we have work to do. But as USDA Secretary Vilsack said in his recorded remarks, “Together, there is no challenge we can’t overcome.”
Creating solutions that are sustainable over time takes innovation, determination and collaboration – something The Farm at Trinity Health is very familiar with. After the summit, attendees visited The Farm, one of the nation’s oldest hospital-based farms. The Farm evolved from a discussion about food as medicine among health care professionals into the multi-faceted, regional program it is today. Access to produce is key to increasing the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, which supports good health. In 2022, The Farm donated 15,554 pounds of produce to 22,339 patients and healthcare workers via its Produce to Patients program. And, because access to healthy food is only the first step toward better health outcomes, The Farm also offers education programs field trips, summer camp, and cooking classes to help people learn to cook healthier foods.
“The Farm is a great example of a program that connects thousands of people to the healing power of nutritious food,” said USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean while touring The Farm. “I am inspired by their model and look forward to hearing more about their impact on health outcomes in the years ahead.”