Food Is Medicine

Food Is Medicine is a produce and shelf-stable food prescription program designed to address food insecurity and increase intake of fresh produce.

Food Is Medicine is a produce and shelf-stable food prescription program designed to address food insecurity and increase intake of fresh produce.

Food Is Medicine is a RUSH program to address food insecurity.Rush University Medical Center’s Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement (CHEE) has launched the Food Is Medicine program, which is designed to provide a long-term solution to food insecurity for Rush patients.

Rush University Medical Center's Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement (CHEE) has initiated the Food Is Medicine program, aimed at offering a sustainable solution to the issue of food insecurity among its patients. 

Defined as the lack of steady access to affordable and nutritious food, food insecurity represents a critical challenge, particularly for residents of West Side Chicago. These individuals frequently encounter obstacles in acquiring affordable fresh produce, directly correlating to negative health outcomes. Pre-pandemic statistics revealed that over 560,000 individuals on the West Side were hindered by at least one obstacle in accessing nutritious food. The onset of COVID-19 has intensified these struggles, presenting additional hurdles for individuals striving to maintain their health. 

Julia Bassett, Rush University Medical Center's System Manager for Health and Community Benefit, reflects on her motivation: "My journey into understanding the disparities faced by communities of color, the significance of health equity, and fair access to food deeply inspired me to contribute towards assisting those in less fortunate circumstances. It is fundamental that everyone has the right to access healthy food options, including the availability of grocery stores stocking fresh fruits and vegetables." 

The program emphasizes the importance of linking patients to essential services such as food, primary care, insurance, utilities, transportation, and housing to bolster community stability. This comprehensive approach allows patients to direct their attention towards enhancing their health and well-being. 

Strategies and Future Directions 

As we approach the two-year anniversary of its inception on May 11, 2024, the Food Is Medicine program has incorporated a systematic approach to identify potential food insecurity among Rush patients. This involves screening patients through a set of questions designed to assess social determinants of health—non-medical factors that influence health outcomes, including access to nutritious food. 

Veggie RX pantry

Identified food-insecure individuals are directed to the Food Is Medicine pantry, where they are provided with a package of healthy proteins and produce. In addition, a community health worker assists them in registering for two subsequent home deliveries and supports them in applying for ongoing food assistance programs such as SNAP or Meals on Wheels, based on their eligibility. Moreover, the program has formed a partnership with 40 Acres, a grocery organization focused on serving Chicago's underserved communities, to further its reach and impact. 

  • About: Offers fresh fruits, vegetables and shelf-stable foods to patients referred by Rush providers. 
  • Hours: The Veggie Rx pantry is open Tuesday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last client seen at 4:45 p.m.) 
  • Location: The pantry is located on the fifth floor of the Medical Center's Triangle Office Building at 1700 W. Van Buren St. (Suite 554) in Chicago. 
  • Referrals: Providers can make referrals directly through Epic to the Veggie Rx Pantry to start the process. 
  • Contact information: You can reach Food is Medicine at (312) 942-9638 

Veggie Rx seamlessly delivers fresh produce directly to Rush patients' homes through our collaboration with 40 Acres. Over three months, patients are entitled to three doorstep deliveries—one each month—facilitated by 40 Acres, thereby removing common obstacles related to transportation or access. In addition to receiving nutritious produce, patients will benefit from customized recipes, information on complimentary and affordable nutrition and health education programs, and support in applying for public benefits like SNAP and WIC. 

Upon enrollment, patients will be greeted with a welcome email from our partner vendor, initiating the setup for their home delivery. Following confirmation, we will arrange the delivery schedule according to the patient's zip code, ensuring a smooth and timely distribution of fresh produce right to their door.