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Advocate Health Care unites South Side Chicago hospitals to address food insecurity

Photo caption: ADVOCATE TRINITY PATIENT Willie Berry greets Advocate Good Shepherd Smart Farm Manager Chris Cubberly at this week’s Food Farmacy distribution. 

Advocate Health Care launched a new cross-county initiative to reduce food insecurity – and thereby improve health outcomes – for patients in-need across its Illinois hospital campuses.

On June 14, Advocate’s Good Shepherd Hospital, 450 Illinois 22, Barrington (Lake County), sent heads of lettuce and bunches of kale harvested from its 2-acre Smart Farm directly to in-need patients of Advocate Trinity Hospital, located on Chicago’s South Side (Cook County). The delivery will be large enough to support nearly 200 families.

“Everyone deserves access to fresh food that tastes good,” said Chris Cubberly, farm manager at the Smart Farm. “We harvested these vegetables yesterday morning, and today, they’re in the hands of people and families who need them.”

The Smart Farm will deliver fresh produce to Advocate Trinity’s Food Farmacy on the South Side every other subsequent week through the growing season. The produce will change seasonally, and each bi-weekly delivery will be informed by what Food Farmacy users said they need most. By creating greater access to locally grown produce using organic practices, Advocate aims to close the health disparity gap among South Chicagoland patients who experience disproportionately high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. An estimated 40 percent of health outcomes are influenced by social determinants of health, including food insecurity.

“Health care shouldn’t stop when you leave the four walls of your doctor’s office or the hospital,” explained Dr. Julie Taylor, a primary care physician who refers patients to the Food Farmacy. “As health care providers, we need to look at and support our patients through the many, smaller decisions made each day that impact our wellness today and shape what our health will look like in the future.”

This new multi-hospital collaboration builds upon Advocate Good Shepherd’s farm-to-patient efforts to assist the 10 percent of northern Illinois’ residents who are at risk of food insecurity. Recent Community Impact Reports show 13 percent of South Chicagoland residents at-risk of food insecurity.

“Last growing season, we grew more than eight tons of fresh produce, which is enough for more than 14,500 meals,” said Chloe Goodman, an Administrative Fellow at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital and project leader. “Offering fresh produce helps us address the root causes of illness, support patients managing chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease where diet plays a big role, and move towards prevention.”

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