The Food Farmacy is open Monday-Friday at Ellis Hospital's McClellan campus and staffed by Catholic Charities.
The Food Farmacy is open Monday-Friday at Ellis Hospital's McClellan campus and staffed by Catholic Charities.

Now there is an easier and innovative way for people to eat healthy.

Alliance for Better Health, in conjunction with Catholic Charities of Albany and Ellis Medicine, has launched the Food Farmacy program at Ellis’ McClellan campus. The Farmacy, one of the first of its kind in upstate New York, allows people to receive advice from nutritionists as well as  fresh produce and other healthy foods.

“Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany and Ellis Medicine are to be applauded for undertaking a unique, front-line approach to the health of individuals in the Capital Region,” said Jacob Reider, M.D., CEO of Alliance for Better Health. “This is work that can immediately address determinants of health for vulnerable people, leading to better health and preventing unnecessary trips to the hospital.”

The Food Farmacy and the Community Nutrition Program, which was launched last fall and allows people to work with a dietician and receive healthy foods at home, was made possible by Alliance for Better Health, which is giving over $5 million to organizations across the Capital Region to try to promote healthy living and eating.

“We’re thrilled to bring our area of expertise to this partnership,” said Vincent W. Colonno, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany. “Good nutrition and access to food is an important part of being healthy and staying healthy. Now, patients in the Ellis system will be able to get access to a food program, including a community meals program, on the same campus where many see their doctors. In addition, patients will be able to connect with a comprehensive network of programs and services through internal referrals from the Farmacy.

“Catholic Charities has run food pantries and meal programs for decades, so it makes perfect sense for us to partner with Ellis and the Alliance to bring these services in a new and unique setting to help drive healthier outcomes for the people we serve.”

There is an urgent need for this type of service in Schenectady County with food insecurity - the inability to find a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food - a major issue. The county’s food insecurity rate is 10 percent, affecting almost 34,000 people, while that rate jumps to 17 percent for children under the age of 18.

And even more staggering: one-third of county residents are considered obese, above the state average of 25 percent. Obesity in known to cause a host of diseases, most notably diabetes and hypertension.

The Food Farmacy is open Monday-Friday with a referral from Ellis Hospital and will provide people with a three-day supply of medically tailored meals. Catholic Charities staff are on-site to determine if clients are eligible for federal programs, answer any other questions and provide referrals.