We have patients who work three jobs and are still food insecure, and that feels really wrong to the core of my heart. It doesn’t make any sense to have an entire ZIP code of people who cannot access food. I live in Hayward myself; we don’t have a regular grocery store. People go to the gas station or 7-Eleven or fast-food places because they don’t have anything else nearby. I see the impact of that.
I always wanted to have people walk away from their visit with a bag of produce. That was my dream ever since I became a dietician. It’s not enough to tell patients what to do; it’s better to give them actual tools. Our Dig Deep Farms collaboration is getting produce into the hands of our people. Food Is Medicine wouldn’t be what it is today without partnerships like this.
Everyone knows they should eat vegetables. But an important component is feeling confident in choosing the right type of produce and preparing it in their homes, incorporating it into their culture’s traditional dishes. At one of our graduations, the participants held vegetables in their hands and sang a song about how they’re eating more vegetables now.
We published research showing that we were able to bring down people’s blood pressure, BMI, even indices of depression and anxiety as a result of being in these groups. The food, the community they built, exercise, stress reduction—these interventions improved their chronic conditions significantly and reduced their social isolation.
The program also has an impact on providers. A lot of my colleagues who are primary care providers do dietary interventions because they’ve seen our successes. It’s great to see an interdisciplinary team come together and provide the best care for our patients.