There’s a new “Farmacy” in Macon with the goal of helping address food insecurity while also teaching the community the proper steps towards keeping a healthy diet in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Atrium Health Navicent opened up the “Food as Medicine Market” in December of 2021 in the hopes of serving the local community as a Specialized Food Pantry (SFP) and a Food Farmacy (FF).
An SFP is a food distribution center that gives food to those who have food insecurity. The Food as Medicine Market will also be offering education on general good nutrition. An FF is a location where physicians can refer patients with Heart Failure or Diabetes.
Physicians will prescribe patients food from the Food as Medicine Market while also helping people in the Macon community receive food if they meet the criteria set by the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank. A nurse provides education on the proper diet for a patient’s medical needs.
“We complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years and found food insecurity as one of the top issues in Bibb County,” Carol Babcock, director for Healthy Communities at Atrium Health Navicent, said. “It will help any qualified person who has food insecurity and meets the household income as required by the Food Bank.”
Atrium Health Navicent found that food insecurity was one of the greatest barriers in health care in central Georgia in a recent community health needs assessment. Atrium Health Navicent also found a need for more access to healthy food as well as an understanding of healthier food options.
“Our mission is to assist with those in need of food, those who need food to combat a chronic condition and those who would like to learn a healthier way of eating,” Babcock said.
The Food as Medicine Market has employed Mercer University students as volunteers in helping unload the food pantry and assisting clients in picking items from the Farmacy.
Shammah Emmanuel, a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology senior volunteer at the market, has been helping unload and sort out donations while also supervising clients herself. She is happy to be assisting so many people in Macon at the food market.
“It does bring a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction to see that we can put smiles on people’s faces and food on their table for the night,” Emmanuel said. “Additionally, I love that we are able to also provide fresh, healthy foods which goes a long way in healing people’s bodies, much more than we realize.”
Emmanuel loves interacting with clients and helping them with their health issues. She thinks it is important to talk with them to let them know about healthier food options.
“Rather than forcing them to pick fruits instead of canned sausages that have a high salt content, I can say ‘have you tried these mangoes, they’re really sweet and have high fiber which is really good,’” Emmanuel said. “By giving them choices, you allow them to exercise their right to autonomy.”
Jacob Tondreau, a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology junior volunteer, has only been at the market a few times but found the experience to be extremely positive. He’s been able to learn about the market and the mechanics that have helped keep the food bank running.
“It’s been a great learning opportunity, and I have enjoyed working with other staff members, volunteers, and clients,” Tondreau said. “Currently, it's been fulfilling and it has opened my eyes to the situations that many (people in Macon) experience, and the hoops they jump through to qualify for WIC and SNAP.”
Tondreau finds helping people fulfilling, but appreciates the learning experience just as much. Tondreau thinks their mission is incredible and hopes that more people from Mercer join in Food as Medicine’s efforts to help promote healthy eating.
“Changing someone’s relationship with food and using it as a preventative measure can really help individuals who don’t have access to quality food,” Tondreau said.
The Food as Medicine market can be accessed by appointment and is available for those in need of food assistance while offering special services for anyone with a medical condition for which nutrition could affect their overall well-being.
Patients can choose foods and place them in a cart, just like at a grocery store, to supplement their pantries and refrigerators. Patients will also receive one-on-one mentoring from nutritionists, nurses, social workers and others who provide education on how to choose and prepare healthy foods.
The Food as Medicine Market will also assist with food stamp applications as well through contacting Crystal Stephens, SNAP coordinator, through her number, 478-342-3218, or her email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For an appointment with Food as Medicine, call ahead at 478-633-5656 and they will set up convenient appointments times for potential clients to visit and receive education and food resources.