Since 2013, Presbyterian has focused on improving food access and nutrition, most recently through Northern Roots, a produce prescription program for patients in need in Santa Fe and Española.
Last year, Presbyterian received additional funding – approximately $166,500 from the New Mexico Department of Health and $30,000 from the Brindle Foundation – that will help expand food prescription programs to serve more families in the state, where one in five children faces hunger.
“At Presbyterian, we know that food is medicine,” said Leigh Caswell, Vice President, Presbyterian Community Health. “We are thrilled to expand food prescription programs to more New Mexico families.”
Food prescription programs enhance clinical care by helping to remove financial barriers to purchasing fresh produce, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, lowering blood pressure and risk of heart disease, and improving food security.
With additional funding, Presbyterian will expand its Community Health Worker program to include perinatal support, referrals to home visiting programs, parenting resources, and lactation support in northern New Mexico. Funding will also help Presbyterian expand produce prescriptions to other communities, including Socorro and the South Valley. State funding is part of the Farm, Food and Hunger Initiative introduced in the 2022 Legislative session and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, which focuses on reducing food insecurity.
Northern Roots began when Presbyterian was awarded a grant by the national non-profit Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry to develop clinical and community partnerships that increase access to healthy food. Northern Roots provides families with 16 weeks of fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition education, and connections to food resources and nutrition assistance programs. Families are referred by trusted health care providers.
Since receiving its first referrals in April 2021, Northern Roots has reached 381 participants with help from 26 referring providers at 11 Presbyterian clinics and hospitals. Surveys of Northern Roots participants show:
90% said Northern Roots increased their ability to provide healthy food for their family
66% said fruit and vegetable consumption increased a lot
100% would recommend the program
Northern Roots helps pediatric patients and their families try and prepare new fruits and vegetables together, said Sarah Mele, pediatric nurse practitioner at Presbyterian Medical Group in Santa Fe.
"In my practice, the families that are most successful in adopting healthier diets and increasing physical activity are the ones that do it together as a team," she said. "They are also having the most fun. I love being able to offer families a 'prescription for fruits and vegetables.'"