Valerie Veltri, Food Farmacy case manager and program director, works with patients to provide healthy food items and nutritional education. (Photos provided)
Valerie Veltri, Food Farmacy case manager and program director, works with patients to provide healthy food items and nutritional education. (Photos provided)
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Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, in partnership with St. Mary’s Healthcare and Alliance for Better Health, announced the launch March 16 of a Food Farmacy at St. Mary’s Memorial Campus in Amsterdam. The Food Farmacy is a type of food pantry which specifically serves food-insecure individuals with health-related issues within the St. Mary’s Healthcare system. This innovative approach to combating issues of food insecurity aims to address immediate and long-term nutritional needs of qualified individuals.

“We began our partnership to implement the Food Farmacy over a year ago to address food insecurity and chronic disease management in our community,” said Margaret Brodie, St. Mary’s Healthcare VP of Mission. “The Food Farmacy not only offers access to healthy foods, but participants also receive personalized education that is critical to ensuring a successful journey toward improved health.”

Unlike a food pantry, the Food Farmacy is staffed with a registered dietitian and a case manager. Participants receive food along with comprehensive nutrition education to improve health. Referred individuals work with Food Farmacy staff to receive healthy foods, including fresh produce and other nutritious food items. The dietitian will recommend food tailored to underlying health issues and educate participants to make informed health-conscious and budget-friendly food decisions, which can improve health long-term.

“Catholic Charities has a long history of working with both St. Mary’s Healthcare and Alliance for Better Health to provide services in our area. It makes sense that, once again, our organizations would come together to help people with this Food Farmacy,” said Mary Carpenter, executive director of Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties. “We’re grateful to call them partners in this endeavor and I look forward to seeing the impact it has on the long-term health of the participants.”

Food insecurity is an area of concern in Fulton and Montgomery Counties, where St. Mary’s operates. Before the pandemic hit, the region had a food insecurity rate of 13 percent — above the national average, according to data from Feeding America. This has only gotten worse in the past year with rural counties seeing higher rates of food insecurity overall.

“Alliance for Better Health is focused on finding ways to improve the health of the people and communities we serve,” said Jacob Reider, MD, CEO of Alliance for Better Health. “Addressing food insecurity in a creative and sustainable way is one of the pillars of our work, and we are pleased to be collaborating with Catholic Charities and St. Mary’s Healthcare toward better health for all.”

“We’re thrilled to bring this innovative, proven model to Montgomery County. Now, people in the St. Mary’s Healthcare system will be able to visit the Food Farmacy much in the same way they’d see a doctor for preventative health care,” said Vincent W. Colonno, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany. “Access to nutritional education and healthy food is important when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Catholic Charities has operated food pantries and meal programs for decades and have found this innovative approach helps to create healthier outcomes for the people we serve.”

The Food Farmacy is available daily Monday through Friday to anyone with a referral from St. Mary’s. Catholic Charities staff at the on-site Food Farmacy, including the registered dietician and case manager, will be on hand to assist with dietary and nutritional needs.

Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties have provided services to the counties’ most vulnerable populations since 1976. Catholic Charities serves children, those struggling with mental illness and/or substance abuse, the economically disadvantaged, abuse victims and those experiencing homelessness. 

Catholic Charities continues to expand its services to meet the growing community needs and its services are available to everyone without regard to race, creed or lifestyle. Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties is an agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany. To learn more, go to: www.catholiccharitiesfmc.org.