Making Food Part of the Treatment Plan

June 8, 2023 - BlueCross BlueShield of Texas Article

For thousands of chronically ill patients, the Food Farmacy program at Harris County’s Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Hospital in Houston has improved their health and helped feed their families.

The initiative, launched by Harris (County) Health System in 2018, was created to address conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. However, it’s also become a lifeline for families living in one of greater Houston’s most impoverished areas. More than half the population in Northeast Harris County — LBJ’s service area — lives at or below the federal poverty level, and an estimated 13,000 residents are food insecure, according to Harris Health, which operates the hospital.

LBJ’s campus includes a small farm that grows a variety of greens and vegetables for the Food Farmacy, and other community partners contribute food to the program to expand options. Patients receiving Food Farmacy referrals can select up to 30 pounds of free fresh produce every two weeks, receive nutrition education and take culinary classes to help them develop healthy lifestyle changes.

So far, the program has served more than 6,500 patients and helped those with diabetes improve their conditions, while reducing their families’ food insecurities.

“The idea is to help everyone in the family because they are all food insecure,” says Maria Sonsoles De La Cruz, Harris Health’s manager of care integration and population health. “Our patients are able to spend their money on other needs because we are helping provide them with food.”


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