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Food is Medicine: Kentucky farmers to supply locally grown foods to area hospitals

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) is partnering with the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) to provide locally grown food to hospitals across the commonwealth.

The Food is Medicine campaign centers around the fact that richer nourishment can result in improved health and long-term positive results for individuals and communities.

As part of the campaign, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell will help Kentucky hospital officials connect with local producers, giving hospitals access to nutritious, locally grown food.

“Creating these local connections means food spends more time on the vine, in the ground, or on the tree before it reaches its destination,” Shell said. “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% of the hospitals’ budgets were spent on local food. The overall average percentage of local food being served at these same hospitals was 15%.

As part of the “Food is Medicine” campaign, a work group that includes the 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.

“As the largest provider of care in southeastern Kentucky, our responsibility goes beyond treating illness,” said Appalachian Regional Healthcare President and CEO Hollie Harris. “We want to help people live healthier lives, and that starts with access to healthy foods.”