Farmacies: A Nutrition-Based Intervention

Have you ever wondered about the irony of a pharmacy a couple aisles down from the fresh produce section in grocery stores? While patients could easily be picking up kale or other fresh produce to bring down their BP and blood glucose, they are instead picking up losartan and metformin. We can partly blame this on the fast-paced and capitalistic society we live in, where time and money are often a barrier to a nutritious lifestyle, especially for the underserved. It’s a problem that needs an immediate solution given that the US spends billions of dollars per  year on diet-related illness. According to the New York Times,  just type II diabetes is projected to cost the US $500 billion dollars in 2020 (Bittman “How to Save a Trillion Dollars”).

Luckily, there are now innovative solutions to this age-old health paradox in society; how can those, especially the underserved, who have a chronic disease secondary to poor diet/lifestyle in the first place focus on buying healthy food while they now have to spend money on medications to get their health under control? Geisinger Health System recently launched “food pharmacies” (or a punnier name Farmacies)  in a hospital in Central Pennsylvania. According to NPR, “it looks more like a grocery, with neatly stocked shelves filled with healthy staples such as whole grain pasta and bean (Aubrey “Fresh Food By Prescription: This Health Care Firm Is Trimming Costs – And Waistlines”). The patients are given resources to prepare healthy meals and given prescriptions for free, fresh food instead of medications. Wholesome Wave is a similar program that provides patients with prescriptions that can be “filled’ at participating markets and grocery stores (“About Us” Wholesome Wave). DC Greens, a similar program, boasts a significant improvement in patient retention in those who are obese and have comorbidities (“Fruit and Vegetable Prescription” DC Greens).


Proactively promoting nutrition in underserved areas with these types of programs can prevent food-related illnesses developing into full-blown multiple comorbidities. My suggestion to take these programs one step further would be to target those who are on the “cusp”, by offering these to those people who are pre-diabetic, pre-hypertensive,etc with increasing risk of developing disease. Exercise is of course another critical component for a healthy lifestyle and bringing down diet-related illnesses. While it is harder to “prescribe” exercise, I think it would be cool if patients were somehow held accountable and given free resources in this aspect as well.

Continuing to expand these programs into new areas will certainly come with challenges. However they are important enough in the long-term because they can reduce overall  health costs, and improve the health of many communities.


“About Us.” Wholesome Wave. N.p., 17 Mar. 2017. Web. 30 July 2017.

Aubrey, Allison. “Fresh Food By Prescription: This Health Care Firm Is Trimming Costs – And Waistlines.” NPR. NPR, 08 May 2017. Web. 30 July 2017.

Bittman, Mark. “How to Save a Trillion Dollars.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 July 2017.

“Fruit and Vegetable Prescription. DC Greens. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 July 2017.

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Sindhuja Godavarthi

Is a contributor to The Almost Doctor’s Channel.