Hurley opens new food pharmacy

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Thousands of people have to choose between buying food or filling prescriptions, every single day.

That one fact helped fuel what is now the Hurley Food Pharmacy, they've just opend their doors, and they're already filling the need.

Cheryl Whitehead is the very first client to pass through on grand opening day. While she fills a grocery cart , instead of a prescription bottle, the healing she finds here is just as potent, "To eat healthy is expensive, I have been having health issues so I haven't been working and it's been hard."

Cheryl learned about the food pharmacy when she got a call, from the pharmacy after a regular visit to Hurley's diabetes center, "This young lady called me- could I use help with some food for my condition and I'm like certainly.

Dietician Susanne Gunsorek called Cheryl because of flags in her electronic chart.

In fact, every Hurley patient will get an automatic referall consult based on their answers to two key questions.

"In the last 12 months, were you worried you were going to run out of food? Or, in the last 12 months, did you actually run out?" says Hurley Wellness Coordinator Alisa Craig.

A patient's answer can indicate they're food insecure- which simply means they're having a tough time affording groceries. This is an especially serious problem among patients who are on special diet, like diabetics.

(susanne gunsorek, rdn) [Notes:super susanne 1:03 to 1:09 ] {***gunsorek***}

"If I'm giving them healthy food information and they have empty shelves at home, then that information doesn't do them any good," says Gunsorek.

Each patient gets a three month pass for the food pharmacy where they will find healthy foods both non-perishable and fresh. So what's the difference between a food pharmacy and a food pantry or bank?

"Food available through food pantries isn't appropriate for chronic diseases. So I many recommend whole wheat pasta, low sodium foods, however it's difficult for them to get those things," says Gunsorek.

After the initial three months, patients may continue on; but the pharmacy has a second goal- connecting those in need to resources.

"Our goal is that eventually they will not necessarily need to come here because they will have been triaged into appropriate community resources," says Criag, who launched the food pharmacy idea.

She says Hurley got right on board, as did the Community Foundation and several other local partners, when they saw how many people the food pharmacy could help.

"We're estimating that with our Hurley population of patients that we will have 30 to 40 percent who will be food insecure," Craig says, "There are resources that are available, but many of these people don't know."

So, along with healthy food, patients here will go home with a healthy dose of hope.

Hurley's new food pharmacy is located inside the Hurley Diabetes Center, on Robert T Longway, in Flint.

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