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ID Partnership On 'Farmacy' Treats Food As Medicine

ARTFULLY-79/Adobe Stock

Boise State University nursing students and the Idaho Foodbank are teaming up to establish healthy food as crucial medicine for Idahoans.

The nursing students are helping the Foodbank develop food "farmacies" in Idaho.

An adjunct member of the faculty at the Boise State University School of Nursing, Jeannine Suter, said the idea of food as medicine has been eye-opening for the students and for her.

"They know what food insecurity is. They know what eating healthy is," Suter said. "But combining those two concepts to say, 'OK, these people who are food insecure with chronic health conditions. Oh, we can help them with these prescriptions and these food pharmacies.'"

Food insecurity is linked to higher incidences of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart and kidney diseases. One in nine Idahoans is experiencing food insecurity, according to recent data from Feeding America. For children, the rate is even higher: about one in eight.

Clinical associate professor at the Boise State University School of Nursing, Shannon Rumsey, said rural parts of the state suffer most from food insecurity and lack of access to healthy foods. But being able to refer people to more nutritious sources in partnership with Idaho Foodbank will help fill that gap.

"I know when I worked in a hospital, I would try to tell patients, 'You can eat this, you can't eat this anymore, you can eat this,'" Rumsey said. "But I never would even really assess, 'OK, do you even have access to this food that I want you to eat?'"

Director of community initiatives for the Idaho Foodbank, Amy Luginbill, said the pandemic hit the state hard, but it has also motivated more people to work together.

"From the pandemic, one of the positive takeaways has been what we've experienced almost overwhelming support and encouragement of collaboration at a community level between organizations," Luginbill said.

The nursing school is going to refine the food "farmacy" program and hopes to launch a site next semester.