Buffalo Food Farmacy helps bring nutritious options to those in need

Feeding families in south Buffalo

A large portion of what happens outside a doctor’s office contributes to one’s health. A major factor is nutrition, meaning that health outcomes can improve with increased access to healthy, nutritious foods.

Recently, UnitedHealthcare hosted a South Buffalo event at D’Youville University's Health Professions Hub Food Farmacy program for the entire Western New York community. An integral part of the program was aimed at addressing the need for fresh food access – a critical step to helping achieve good health.

During the event, residents learned about local resources that could help improve food access, health care assistance and access to registered dieticians. They also took part in free health screenings, diabetes awareness education and cooking demonstrations using ingredients found at the Food Farmacy.

The event kicked off with Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Dion Dawkins, who assisted in distributing fresh food, free crock pots and more, as part of a partnership with UnitedHealthcare to provide attendees with food and easy to use tools to prepare meals.

His organization, Dion’s Dreamers, supports young people in underserved communities and provides mentorship to those facing mental, physical and financial difficulties.

“With my career and my life, health is one of the biggest things,” Dion said. “You have to be healthy to play football. You have to be healthy to smile and be happy and give off positive energy.”

Dion was most excited about the event’s focus on food security.

“I think anytime somebody can get food and be able to feed their family is the ultimate win, because food is expensive and healthy food is expensive,” he said. “So, with them being able to get food to bring home, it’s a win-win.”

Junior Harewood, CEO of Employee and Individual Plans for UnitedHealthcare of New York, addressed social and economic factors impacting people’s health.

“For a lot of folks, they want to be healthy,” he said. “But a lot of times, that food, that access to fresh fruit is not available to them. And then you have the other offers that are a lot cheaper. So, if we can bring fresh food at a reasonable [cost] or no costs, it just helps the community in general.”

He explained that some people may grow up in a food insecure environment and fall back on the type of diet they knew as children. Food education is a big component.

Launched in October 2021, the Food Farmacy program is part of a partnership with Catholic Health, D’Youville University and FeedMore Western New York to address the area’s growing food insecurity issue. In New York, nearly 1.9 million people face hunger, while in Buffalo almost 28% of people live in poverty, one of the leading causes of food insecurity. Over the last two years, the Food Farmacy has provided over 60,000 pounds of food to neighboring residents.

The Food Farmacy program is funded with the help of a two-year UnitedHealthcare grant. This year’s Empowering Health grant from UnitedHealthcare presents D'Youville University Health Professions Hub with a $325,000 donation to develop and implement culturally relevant training for community health workers and health profession students to address food insecurity and provide community food preparedness interventions.

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