Walgreens teams with University of Chicago Medicine on South Side Food Rx initiative

CHICAGO — The University of Chicago Medicine and Walgreens are teaming up to launch a "Food Rx" initiative that will help people with diabetes improve their eating habits by overcoming two major hurdles when shopping for food: access and affordability, the groups announced Wednesday.

As part of the Improving Diabetes Care and Outcomes on the South Side of Chicago, a project based at the University of Chicago Medicine, diabetes patients who visit one of six South Side clinics can receive a prescription-like checklist of their doctor’s food recommendations and a coupon for $5 off $20 worth of healthy food at participating Walgreens locations. Patients also can get a $3 voucher for the weekly 61st Street Farmers Market in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

"The factors driving the diabetes prevalence rate on the South Side are multifaceted, and addressing them requires a comprehensive, nuanced approach," stated Monica Peek, lead on the Food Rx initiative and associate director of the Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research. "Many of the patients we see have challenges accessing and preparing healthy food. Through continued education and initiatives like this one, we’re working to chip away at the obstacles and alter behaviors."

"Walgreens is uniquely positioned to help improve health outcomes through the pharmacy, health and wellness services we provide and by making fresh and affordable food options available to South Side communities with limited access to healthier options," Walgreens market pharmacy director Denise Scarpelli said. "Each day, our pharmacists provide valuable information, advice and support in the communities we serve. Through this program, the important patient-pharmacist relationship is taken to a new level and connects people with their pharmacist in a meaningful way."

The Food Rx initiative builds on the Improving Diabetes Care and Outcomes on the South Side of Chicago interventions already under way, including patient education, grocery store tours, tools for health care providers, improvements to clinic systems and relationships with community organizations such as food pantries.

Food Rx organizers reported that the participating clinics are natural collaborators in this effort because they already serve the target population. In addition, Walgreens’ prominence in urban communities and its commitment to provide greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains in many locations, make the Deerfield-based health and daily living destination another ideal ally. Food Rx also is working with the 61st Street Farmers Market, which features more than two dozen vendors offering locally grown fruits and vegetables, fresh whole grain breads, dairy products and healthy homemade meals. The market was launched in 2008 by the nonprofit organization Experimental Station and a group of residents who wanted access to fresh, seasonal food.

"Through our 61st Street Farmers Market, we’re helping to rebuild the food culture on the South Side and change food consumption patterns by making fresh and healthy foods available, more affordable and more desirable to the local community," Experimental Station executive director Connie Spreen said. "The Food Rx program will enable patients suffering from diabetes to discover how much better their lives can be if they put good food on their plates."

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