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NV Doctors, Food Banks Team Up to Prescribe Healthy Food

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada has added a range of foods to help clients target specific health issues, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (Jessica Spengler/Flickr)
The Food Bank of Northern Nevada has added a range of foods to help clients target specific health issues, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (Jessica Spengler/Flickr)
April 24, 2018

RENO, Nev. – In northern Nevada, health-care providers and food pantries are teaming up to address a common problem: What happens when your diet is causing health problems, but you don't have access to healthier food?

The Prescription Pantry program allows doctors to screen their patients not only for nutrition-related health concerns, like diabetes or heart disease, but also for food insecurity.

Through the pilot program, patients can fill a "prescription" for the specific foods they need at seven participating food pantries, says Jocelyn Lantrip, director of marketing and communications for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

"We know that healthy, nutritious food is important to our clients," she says. "So, we do a lot of distribution of fresh produce all the time, but this is an even more targeted effort."

In addition to the staples they've always offered, she says the participating food pantries now carry low-sodium or heart-healthy foods, specifically for the needs of people with certain health conditions.

Lantrip points out that healthier foods are often more expensive. She recalls one food bank client who was diagnosed with diabetes.

"She knew the foods that she needed to get, and she went to the store and realized that a lot of them were out of reach for her, financially," she lamented.

For doctors, the program offers another tool to address the root causes of some health issues, says Afton Neufeld, marketing and public relations manager of Community Health Alliance.

"There are lots of things that patients don't have control over," says Neufeld. "But getting them access to Prescription Pantry gives them more control over what they're putting in their bodies, and it makes them really take charge of their health, which we're all about."

In the first few months of the Prescription Pantry program, more than 9,000 people, including patients and their families, have been served.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - NV