What happens when “following doctor’s orders” just isn’t possible? This is the question that Dr. Deborah Frank asked herself in 2001 – a question that resulted in the formation of Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) Preventative Food Pantry. And over the last decade, this on-site resource center for patients in need of healthy food has grown to serve over 80,000 BMC patients and their families each year.

Much like Health Leads, the Preventative Food Pantry developed from conversations Dr. Frank had with members of the clinical team who knew their patients’ health was suffering because they didn’t have access to nutritious food.   Now, the pantry is now available to all BMC patients who can’t afford healthy food on their own. Upon referral from their doctors, families can visit the on-site pantry twice a month and receive 3-4 days’ worth of food each time.

Too often, parents can’t possibly think about keeping their families healthy because their most basic resource needs go unmet. A new America’s Essential Hospitals post featuring this BMC program highlights this stark reality with a glaring statistic:

One of the most devastating realities of food insecurity is that patients are forced to choose between food and other essential living expenses. In a poll of more than 60,000…who receive food assistance through their affiliated food programs, 66 percent reported that they had to choose between food and their medical care in the past year.

As one of the country’s leading safety-net institutions, BMC is setting a powerful example by providing quality, wraparound care to its patients. This program is inspiring, and an important compliment not only to the Health Leads program in BMC’s pediatric clinic, but also the Prescribe-A-Bike program that Boston Medical Center implemented earlier this year. The Prescribe-A-Bike program enables physicians to prescribe subsidized bike memberships to low-income patients. Over the summer, doctors at Boston Medical Center wrote hundreds of prescriptions for their patients.

Read more about this program on the America’s Essential Hospitals blog: “The Social Determinants of Health: Food Insecurity”. Learn more about Boston Medical Center’s Prescribe-A-Bike program.


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