St. Joseph’s Health launches ‘Food Farmacy’ to tackle food insecurity

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Inside of St. Joseph’s Primary Care Center Main is a small room with a big purpose. A new “Food Farmacy” program is helping feed patients who aren’t only food insecure, but living with chronic diseases.

According to Feeding America, more than 35 million people faced hunger before the pandemic. Since then, that number has jumped dramatically to more than 42 million Americans.

“It is a struggle, especially when you’re looking at the diabetic patient population where we know they need a structured diet. If they’re unable to maintain food or if they’re worrying about food, it’s very stressful,” explained Deborah Mendzef, the Food Farmacy’s coordinator.

The program’s approach is simple, to treat food as a form of medicine and make nutritious food accessible.

Patients receive nutritional counseling from a registered dietitian, medication management from a hospital pharmacist, medical oversight by resident physicians, group sessions and access to the program’s food pantry.

Plus, all of it is free made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.

Qualifications for the program include…

  • Be a patient of St. Joseph’s Health Primary Care Center Main 
  • Have a diagnosis of Diabetes and an A1C of 7.5 or higher
  • Screen positive for food insecurity

We have a great need in our community. We know that there is food insecurity. We know there are chronic health conditions. There are many issues affecting our community, which is why we really wanted to start this program, and be able to support our patients.

Deborah Mendzef, Food Farmacy Coordinator, St. Joseph’s Health

“We know that here at St. Joseph’s we have to provide care, outside of just clinical care, — Deborah Mendzef

Patients have access to the food pantry once a week. This consists of 2 meals per day for five days a week and provided for the patient and up to six members in their household.

The registered dietitian also provides weekly recipes, planning worksheets and daily food diaries.

I’ve always wanted to be in a situation where I could help those who really needed that extra assistance, especially in a time like COVID, where we’ve really seen an increase in food insecurity, people losing their jobs. Now more than ever, we need a program like this.

Sofia Sepulveda, Registered Dietitian, Food Farmacy

The Food Farmacy is looking for volunteers. If you’re interested in signing up, you can call the program directly at (315) 448-6470.

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