AHN opens its newest health food center at Forbes Hospital

The Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has opened its newest health food center – at Forbes Hospital.

This marks another milestone for this unique program in the western Pennsylvania region, increasing access to nutritious food for residents of the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

The Health Food Center serves as a “food pharmacy” where patients can obtain healthy food items, as well as educate about disease-specific diets and resources to address other social challenges. The top spot debuted in 2018 at West Penn Hospital, followed by locations at Allegheny General Hospital, Jefferson Hospital and Saint Vincent Hospital. To date, AHN Health Food Centers have provided patients and their families with more than 124,000 meals.

Food insecurity refers to the lack of continuous access to nutritious foods for an active and healthy life. According to Feeding America, an estimated 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, faced food insecurity this year.

“Recently, the spread of covid-19 has put a stronger focus on how fragile the food security of Americans is and how vulnerable many families are, particularly with the loss of basic family income,” said Stuart Fisk, director of the CRNP. AHN Center for Inclusion Health. “With the proven success of AHN’s Healthy Food Center, we are thrilled to expand the program to our eastern suburbs neighbors, positively impacting families during a very challenging time.”

AHN doctors screen patients for food insecurity by asking whether they have been concerned about an adequate food supply in the past 12 months or whether they have experienced financial hardship that prevents them from purchasing enough monthly groceries for the entire family.

Patients who receive a referral from a medical provider can visit the center – located in the hospital’s first professional building – to pick up pre-packed boxes of fresh produce and nutrients. Boxes typically consist of approximately two to three days of food for the whole family, and patients can visit once every 30 days for six months as part of their referral.

“Through our robust clinical programs, AHN Forbes is uniquely positioned to make a difference for the many food-insecure families who live in the communities we serve,” said Mark Rubino, MD, president of AHN Forbes. “We screen patients in the emergency department and in physicians’ offices for social and environmental challenges that can affect their overall health, and we know that many of our patients suffer from barriers to health such as food insecurity and lack of transportation.”

“When patients have these risk factors, it becomes more difficult for them to deal with chronic health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” Rubino said. “Forbes Hospital has always focused on the needs of the community, and by providing an additional access point for nutritious food, we are dramatically improving the health and overall quality of life for patients and the communities we serve.”

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