(Lower Lights Christian Health Center)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some Community Health Centers are stepping outside the exam room to ensure that patients and others can access nutritious foods they need for a healthy lifestyle.
The Columbus-area community of Franklinton has been without a grocery store for years, which means some residents rely on convenience stores and fast-food restaurants to feed their families.
Ann Schiele, chief strategy officer with Lower Lights Christian Health Center, says the center recognized the need, and after years of planning recently opened Jubilee Market and Cafe.
"Quality foods at reasonable prices positively impact one's health, and this nutritional component was probably the ultimate factor in why this underserved community so needs a market," she says.
She says community members now don't have to go far to purchase nutritious foods that can help treat and prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. The market accepts SNAP benefits, and low-income customers who meet certain income guidelines are eligible for discounts on fresh produce.
Schiele says the market will offer color coding on products to highlight certain nutritional needs, such as "low-sugar, low-fat, or high-protein." Dietitians from the center also will be on hand to help folks who have been prescribed a specific diet.
"If they'll choose to shop in the grocery store and meet with our dietitians on a regular, ongoing basis, then we can help them to follow and explain and talk about the diet," she explains.
Another goal of the market and cafe is workforce development, and Schiele says they hope to eventually hire up to a dozen employees from the community.
"The manager has developed a mentoring program on teaching them the skills, and her goal is if they stay with us a year or two and move on to a bigger facility, we will be satisfied that we have met our goal," she adds.
Other Community Health Centers around the country are also incorporating food security and nutrition as part of their delivery of health care through community gardens, food prescriptions, patient vouchers and meal programs.