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Grandfather and child picking corn

Food Systems

Access to fresh, healthy food is a fundamental component of a community’s overall wellness. We cannot be truly well if there are significant barriers to food. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is committed to addressing food security, especially for those who have significant challenges accessing food on a regular basis. Our goal is to help meet the nutritional and cultural needs of our communities. 

Through funding from CommonSpirit Health, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has begun piloting several projects that build capacity in our local food system. This includes partnering with Emergency Food Network on a medically-tailored food box delivery program and providing expert advice on bulk food buying. Additionally, our goal is to support our local food banks in serving the community with culturally relevant foods, creating a welcoming environment, nutritional analysis, educational materials and nutrition programming. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health will also work on edible food recovery programs and support efforts to increase participation in state and federal food programs. 

To learn more about the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Food Systems Initiative, reach out to [email protected].

  • This pilot program aims to help meet the nutritional needs of our food insecure patients at the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Heart & Vascular Clinic in Tacoma. In partnership with the Emergency Food Network, eligible patients receive fresh produce, two non-perishable grocery boxes, one cold or frozen grocery box every month. These grocery boxes are provided free of charge and adhere to the heart healthy diet guidelines set forth by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

    The goal of this project is to close the gap of food insecurity and support better health outcomes for our patients with heart failure. Ultimately, we hope this pilot program will provide sufficient data for insurance companies to fund prescription food boxes in the future.

    Program participation requires a referral from a cardiologist. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in this program, please contact the Heart & Vascular Associates clinic in Tacoma at 253-382-8539.

  • Virginia Mason Franciscan Health will be utilizing a third party vendor to pick up excess food from our hospitals, and deliver it to nearby hot meal feeding programs. This program showcases our commitment to environmental sustainability by decreasing food waste, saving water and diverting CO2.

    Once this program has launched, annual sustainability reports will be available here.

    If your feeding program is interested in becoming a recipient of food, please reach out to us at [email protected].

  • Virginia Mason Franciscan Health will work with community partners to complete assessments of local food banks and food pantries, and give recommendations to make them more welcoming and inclusive. There is also a call out for ideas and solutions on how to provide more culturally relevant foods in our local food banks and pantries.

  • Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is working with county health departments and internal departments (such as WIC, care management and patient access) to better assess and document food security among our patients, and connect them with the appropriate food resources.

More food system projects

  • Our food systems coordinator and registered dietitian will be co-hosting cooking demonstrations and nutrition education classes with culinary arts students from Olympic College. Join us in the teaching kitchen for tasty samples and take-home recipes! Please visit the activities page on the Marvin Williams Center website for upcoming event details.

  • Our registered dietitian is working with several food banks on the creation and review of a nutrition policy specific to each organization. While this is not a local, state, or federal requirement, many food banks are developing these policies as a way to publicly communicate their intention and plans to provide healthy and nutritious foods to their clients.

    Visit the Washington Food Coalition’s resources page to access guidelines for writing a nutrition policy.

  • Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with food from a food bank. Many people in our community lack the knowledge, skills, or tools to create healthy meals from the ingredients provided. Luckily, the USDA provides nutrition education, storage tips, and serving suggestions for each of the foods they provide to the food banks. Each handout also includes two recipes for the food item! Product Information Sheets are found here. The next step is to navigate to the correct food group, then the item of interest. For example, click on “vegetable”, then “Potatoes, sliced, canned” to get this PDF of nutrition information and recipes.

  • If your organization is applying for grants or other funding and needs a letter of support from a healthcare organization, please reach out to us. The grant mission and/or specific project must align with our goals to promote community health and sustainable food systems. If for some reason it does not align with our department’s goals and objectives, then we can refer you to the appropriate contact person within our organization.

  • Outside of the projects directly funded by CommonSpirit Health, we are always excited to collaborate with our community partners on their new food system ventures. Some examples include:

     

Food system community partners

Our food systems team is out in the community building and fostering relationships every day! This list is not all inclusive, as it is always growing and changing.