Baptist Health’s Food Rx Program

Filled grocery bags stand lined up at a food pantry

Addresses food insecurity in the short-term and offers long-term solutions

Recent analysis of U.S. Department of Agricultural data by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement revealed that, in over a quarter of all Arkansas census tracts, at least 50% of the population resides in food deserts—areas lacking convenient access to grocery stores and healthy foods. Consequently, individuals in these regions face greater challenges in obtaining proper nutrition, elevating their susceptibility to conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Living in a food desert stands as one of Arkansas’ prevailing determinants of health.

Baptist Health recognizes the financial constraints that many patients face, and, in response, developed the Food Rx Program to provide nonperishable food items to patients who have an immediate need.

Patients are asked two questions using the Hunger Vital SignTM Screening Tool; when they indicate that having additional food would be beneficial to them and their household, they are provided with a bag of nonperishable food.

Baptist Health’s partner in food acquisition is the Arkansas Food Bank, which helps more than 400 agencies across Central and South Central Arkansas to provide food to those in need. The Baptist Health Food Rx Program provides health-needs specific bags of food to patients in its primary clinics. Diabetes-focused bags offer low-carbohydrate and high-protein food items, while hypertension- and congestive heart failure-focused bags provide low-sodium foods.

While the Food Rx Program offers an immediate but short-term solution, Baptist Health takes steps to connect patients with more sustainable, long-term support. The health system collaborates with findhelp, whose search engine helps identify national and local social service providers. Baptist Health and findhelp are collaborating to establish partnerships with community-based organizations that provide social services, enabling patients to receive appropriate referrals.

Patients who receive a food bag from Food Rx can also receive referrals to the SNAP-ARK Call Center, a service provided by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. The call center assists individuals in assessing their eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and guides eligible individuals through the application process. SNAP offers a monthly allowance to augment the food budgets of families facing financial difficulties, enabling them to purchase nutritious foods and work towards self-sufficiency. The integration of Food Rx and referrals to SNAP-ARK offers both immediate and enduring solutions for patients grappling with food insecurity.

Resources on the Role of Hospitals