What you eat can have a big impact on your health. One example of where that's true is blood pressure. Neighborhood Health Center is finding innovative ways to work on lifestyle changes with patients who are living with hypertension. One of the ways is through free nutrition and cooking classes for patients. These classes are a partnership between Neighborhood, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, and SNAP-Ed.
Neighborhood’s quality department leads the initiative on Neighborhood’s end. The quality department works to improve overall patient access to care, support better health outcomes, improve the functionality of all Neighborhood departments, and advocate for equal access to quality healthcare.
“It is not only important to educate our patients on making healthier food choices, but to also show our patients that it can be accessible to them,” said Imari Maynard, population health coordinator at Neighborhood, who has been leading the initiative.
Adding to the problem is food apartheid. Food apartheid is defined as the intentional inequality in our food system. It can be seen in the lower access to fresh, nutritious food, based on race, income and geography. Equitable access is an important part of Neighborhood Health Center’s mission and commitment to caring for the whole you. By providing education and affordable access Neighborhood hopes to make a nutritious lifestyle more accessible to our patients, and to our community.
These classes are hosted by a community partner once a week, for eight weeks at a time, and are taught by Erie County trained nutritionists. Following each class, participants receive a $20 voucher for fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices that can be used at vendors including select Tops Friendly Markets.
“[The vouchers] help so much because fruits and vegetables are so expensive and food stamps don’t go very far,” said one participant, who we are not naming to respect their privacy.
Following the second session of classes, 36% of patients that attended were considered to have controlled hypertension. Another key number is the amount of produce vouchers awarded through this program. After the second session, the total amount of vouchers distributed to participants was $2,820.
“I am learning from you,” said another participant. “Everything that we do, I take home the recipe and cook it. I already had everything at home and didn’t even know I could make it, it was delicious.”
Some participants are even finding benefits from the program beyond the nutrition aspects.
"This class has really helped with my mental health," said a participant, "I feel like I have a place to go and I really look forward to it.”
Neighborhood also partners with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) to bring their mobile market to Neighborhood Health Center Northwest and Mattina. The mobile market’s mission is to bring fresh and affordable produce to neighborhoods in WNY that are impacted by food apartheid. Read more here.
This program was made possible in thanks to the CDC Innovations Grant, in connection with the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS).