Nashville, TN–Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee announced Monday a $60,000 grant from the Amerigroup Foundation to expand the Food is Medicine program. The grant will fund this initiative at the food bank as it partners with Nashville General Hospital Foundation to support health care staff with the implementation of processes to conduct universal food insecurity screenings and interventions.

The Food is Medicine program, a Feeding America initiative funded by the Amerigroup Foundation, will help connect about 1,500 people facing hunger in the Nashville area to food distribution programs that provide access to healthy food options. This program aims to screen between 20,000 and 30,000 hospital and clinic patients with the goal of improving food security and health outcomes.

“When our neighbors are unable to afford healthy foods, their health suffers,” Caroline Pullen, senior manager of nutrition and innovation at Second Harvest, said in a news release. “By partnering with Amerigroup Foundation, we can begin tackling these challenging issues together and create healthier communities.”

Through the grant’s funding, Nashville General Hospital patients are screened for food insecurity, and those who are food insecure are referred to the on-site, state-of-the-art Food Pharmacy. There, patients receive free, healthy foods, as well as nutrition education and referrals to other food distributions and resources, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

“The Food is Medicine program addresses essential nutritional needs with the provision of nutrient-dense foods and fresh produce, coupled with increased education about choice,” said Vernon Rose, executive director of Nashville General Hospital Foundation. “We are grateful to partner with Second Harvest and Amerigroup Foundation as we aim to improve community health by coming together through an innovative collocation to help those individuals with resources that will increase their overall well-being.”

Currently, 1 in 8 people face hunger in Middle Tennessee.

“We have long championed for better access to nutritious foods in the communities we serve — understanding the integral link between healthy food options and its impact on overall health,” said Chad Pendleton, Amerigroup Tennessee president. “This unique partnership will continue to allow clinical staff to conduct universal food insecurity screenings and interventions. As food insecurity continues to affect our communities, we remain committed to removing barriers and create sustainable change through bold action and collaboration with partners across the health ecosystem.”

People living in food-insecure households are more likely to experience poor health across their lifespan and are at increased risk for illness and poor chronic disease management. The Food is Medicine program seeks to ensure patients who screen positive for food insecurity during health care visits have access to resources to help them get the food they need.

Amerigroup Foundation has supported hunger relief efforts at food banks across Tennessee, and this grant represents a sustained investment to support food bank and health care partnerships and address the intersections of food insecurity and health.