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Virtua Prescribes Healthy Food Through New Pantry

Virtua’s mission is ‘Be Well, Get Well, Stay Well’ and now, through a new program, they’re helping their patients eat well. Virtua officials joined together on the morning of Thursday, September 20th, in Mt. Holly to unveil the brand new Virtua Food Pantry.

“We have a plethora of items; we have fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, peanut butter, tuna fish, pasta,” said Suzanne Ghee, assistant vice president of Community Health at Virtua. “Patients can select from the variety of items behind me but also what’s in these cabinets and in our refrigerator.”

She says they’re taking a food-as-medicine approach where they’re using health food, nutrition counseling, and social services to help the patient in need.

“Patients come to our program and they can shop for things that they know that they like,” said Ghee. “But we teach them how to prepare meals in a healthy fashion. The goal is to reduce chronic disease and to decrease hunger.”

“We see so many people that come in as patients that list food insecurity as a concern on a daily basis,” said Dennis Pullin, president and CEO of Virtua. “So, for us to be able to see food as medicine and to be able to provide that for them here at the hospital is something I think is an incredible way of being very purposeful in serving the community.”

Eligible patients from any Virtua location will be given what they’re calling a “prescription” for healthy food and produce.

They can then come in and shop at the Food Pantry once a week.

Virtua partnered with the Virtua Foundation and the Food Bank of South Jersey to fill the shelves and fridge with healthy options and it’s already making a difference.

“It means that I’m saving money that I can put towards my bills. It’s also allowing me to eat nutritionally, more of a balanced diet from what I was doing before,” said Libby Chapman, a resident that utilizes the Food Pantry.  

“It’s fantastic that people can live a clean, healthy life with the food pantry and get the proper food and the proper nutrition. It goes hand-in-hand with health,” said Robert Silcox, president of the Virtua Foundation.

“And I’m proud that we are the sixth health system in the country to be operating a program like this,” said Ghee.

But it doesn’t stop here. Virtua plans on opening a second food pantry in the city of Camden by the end of the year.

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