Access to nutritious food is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle


That’s the reason the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) and I are joining forces with the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) to develop a “Food is Medicine” campaign focusing on the power of food and its connection to healthier living.

Advocating the connection between food and health is essential to meeting the goal of less chronic disease and longer lifespans for Kentuckians. But it’s more than a message about choosing the right foods; it’s also a message about expanding our food distribution networks within the agriculture industry.

Through increasing access to local, healthy food options, I’m working with Kentucky’s hospitals on crafting plans for a positive impact on communities across the state. This collaboration recognizes that high-quality nourishment, such as a diet rich in protein, is essential for well-being. Richer nourishment can result in healthier lifestyles, improved health, and long-term positive results for individuals and communities.

Recognizing nutritious need is one part of the overall goal, while creating consistent access to healthy food is another critical component. As part of this campaign, KDA will help Kentucky hospital officials connect with local producers, giving hospitals access to nutritious food closer to their hospital locations.

Creating these local connections means food spends more time on the vine, in the ground, or on the tree before it reaches its destination. When it comes to fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, the shorter time and distance from the farm to its destination, the higher the levels of vitamins and minerals.

Despite the value of local food, a recent survey completed by representatives of 50 hospital systems across the state found that only about 2 percent of the hospital’s budget is spent on local food. The overall average percentage of local food being served at these same hospitals was 15 percent.

Five areas of the campaign will include:

  • Looking at the food a hospital is serving to patients;
  • Creating partnerships between hospitals and local farmers;
  • Connecting patients to consistent healthy food;
  • Creating outreach for patients who need a special diet (for example, diabetes patients, who could benefit from having a source of fresh food); and
  • Expanding existing initiatives that connect Kentuckians to healthy food options.

As part of the “Food is Medicine” campaign, a work group including KDA, KHA, eight health systems, and other key organizations will study how hospitals can play a key role in prescribing food as medicine to patients by creating more access to healthier and local foods.

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