“Meat, fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by these days,” Harold Crittenden, 57, of Marshall County, Ky. shares. “I’ve been on disability, so you get what you can get.”
Harold and his wife, Yvette, also 57, (both pictured above) have diabetes. Harold also has a heart condition. When their primary care doctor, Edwin Perez-Lopez, MD, of Mercy Health — Marshall Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, asked if they’d be interested in taking part in our ministry’s Fresh Food Program, they said yes.
The Mercy Health Fresh Food Program is a community health initiative to help patients with chronic health conditions access healthy foods.
If you have one of these conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, it’s important to incorporate fresh meat, fruits and vegetables in your diet. These foods not only help you manage your disease, but they can also prevent it from getting worse.
Sometimes, however, accessing healthy foods is easier said than done. Our Fresh Food Program is targeted to help Marshall County, Ky., where residents have a high rate of obesity and less access to fresh food resources as compared to residents in their neighboring counties. Additionally, adults in western Kentucky have disproportionate diagnoses of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Because of all this, it makes sense that chronic health issues and food insecurity were identified as two of the top community health needs in the services area of Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital.
The Fresh Food Program launched in June of 2022as a 16-week pilot program. It was funded fully by our foundation and invited 20 patients of Mercy Health — Marshall Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics to take part, including the Crittendens. The patients were all diabetic and met other criteria that enabled us providers to track their progress.
Patients received a fresh food bundle every two weeks at no cost, directly following a bi-weekly appointment to track their health outcomes. The fresh food bundles were curated by Harvest Crate, a local company that delivers fresh produce straight from local family-owned farms. Each bundle included grass-fed ground beef, pasture-raised chicken, pasture-raised ground turkey, pork or lamb, a dozen pasture-raised eggs and a produce bundle containing eight units of seasonal fruits as well as vegetables.
Yvette loved the food in the bundles.
“The fresh fruits and vegetables were delicious! The peaches were the sweetest peaches I’ve ever eaten, and the chicken was the tastiest, best chicken,” she recalls.
Both Yvette and Harold also noticed welcomed health changes over the course of the program.
“My A1C was a little lower after the program,” Harold shares. “I could tell the difference. I felt better and I know I was eating healthier.”
“I was surprised at the drop in my A1C measure and in my weight loss,” Yvette adds. “I felt better.”
Our care team tracked each patient’s weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and blood glucose level on a bi-weekly basis over the course of the program. Results from a lipid panel and hemoglobin A1C test at the beginning and end of the program were also tracked.
Of the participants who completed the Fresh Food Program, 92 percent experienced an improvement in at least one of their health metrics, and 100 percent reported feeling more energetic and healthier while participating in the program.
Other program outcomes included:
- Participants who lost weight during the program lost an average of 7.8 pounds
- BMI decreased by an average 1.3 among the participants who decreased their BMI during the program
- Eighty-three percent of participants saw a decrease in blood pressure
- One-third of participants felt better enough to begin a new exercise routine while participating in the program
- One-third of participants increased their knowledge about healthy foods and preparing healthy meals during the program
Our community health team as well as our foundation are currently exploring ways to grow this program.
Learn more about the primary care services we offer at Mercy Health.