March 16, 2021

Food Farmacy Brings Health-Focused Nutritional Support to Food Insecure

Food Farmacy Brings Health-Focused Nutritional Support to Food Insecure

From Left: Melissa Kopf MS, RD, CDN, Community Benefits Coordinator and Margaret Brodie, VP of Mission Integration for St. Mary’s Healthcare join Mary Carpenter, Executive Director, Valerie Veltri, Food Farmacy Case Manager and Courtney Javarone, Program Director of Community Resources for Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery County at the Food Farmacy located on St. Mary’s Memorial Campus.

A partnership between Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, St. Mary’s Healthcare, and Alliance for Better Health establishes innovative service for food-insecure patients. 

Amsterdam, NY – Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, in partnership with St. Mary’s Healthcare and Alliance for Better Health, today announced the launch of a Food Farmacy at St. Mary’s Memorial Campus. The Food Farmacy is a type of food pantry which specifically serves food-insecure individuals with health-related issues who have been identified within the St. Mary’s Healthcare system. This innovative approach to combating issues of food insecurity aims to address immediate and long-term nutritional needs of qualified individuals. 

Unlike a food pantry, the Food Farmacy is staffed with a registered dietitian and a case manager. Participants receive food along with comprehensive nutrition education to improve health. Referred individuals work with Food Farmacy staff to receive healthy foods, including fresh produce and other nutritious food items. The dietitian will recommend food tailored to underlying health issues and educate participants to make informed health-conscious and budget-friendly food decisions, which can improve health long-term. 

"We began our partnership to implement the Food Farmacy over a year ago to address food insecurity and chronic disease management in our community.  The Food Farmacy not only offers access to healthy foods, but participants also receive personalized education that is critical to ensuring a successful journey towards improved health," said Margaret Brodie, St. Mary's Healthcare VP of Mission. 

“Catholic Charities has a long history of working with both St. Mary’s Healthcare and Alliance for Better Health to provide services in our area. It makes sense that, once again, our organizations would come together to help people with this Food Farmacy,” said Mary Carpenter, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties.  “We’re grateful to call them partners in this endeavor and I look forward to seeing the impact it has on the long-term health of the participants.” 

Food insecurity is an area of concern in Fulton and Montgomery Counties, where St. Mary’s operates. Before the pandemic hit, the region had a Food Insecurity Rate of 13% - above the national average, according to data from Feeding America. This has only gotten worse as food insecurity has increased in the past year and rural counties are seeing higher rates of food insecurity overall.  

“Alliance for Better Health is focused on finding ways to improve the health of the people and communities we serve,” said Jacob Reider, MD, CEO of Alliance for Better Health. “Addressing food insecurity in a creative and sustainable way is one of the pillars of our work, and we are pleased to be collaborating with Catholic Charities and St. Mary’s Healthcare toward better health for all.” 

“We’re thrilled to bring this innovative, proven model to Montgomery County. Now, people in the St. Mary’s Healthcare system will be able to visit the Food Farmacy much in the same way they’d see a doctor for preventative health care,” said Vincent W. Colonno, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany. “Access to nutritional education and healthy food is important when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Catholic Charities has operated food pantries and meal programs for decades and have found this innovative approach helps to create healthier outcomes for the people we serve.” 

Sarah Valachovic, LPN at the St. Mary's Gloversville Health Center, said "I have referred many patients to the Food Farmacy. I think that it is wonderful that they can receive fresh food that is nutritious and can help them maintain a healthy lifestyle even while they may be struggling to obtain foods at times. Being able to meet with a dietician is also a very useful component in helping our patients. I had a patient who is diabetic. He was struggling with his A1C and hopefully by getting some fresh food this will help to set him on the right track.” 

The Food Farmacy is available daily Monday through Friday to anyone with a referral from St. Mary’s. Catholic Charities staff at the on-site Food Farmacy, including the registered dietician and case manager, will be on hand to assist with dietary and nutritional needs.