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Shawnee area Veggie RX program awarded $50K grant

The Shawnee News-Star

Shawnee, in partnership with Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County, today announced its Veggie Rx program has been awarded a Telligen Community Initiative (TCI) grant in the amount of $50,000. The grant allows the Veggie Rx program to continue its efforts to connect the medical system and the food sector by creating a relationship between clinic staff, their patients and local grocers in encouraging patients to make healthier food choices.

In 2019, St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee collaborated with community partners, including Blue Zones Project and FireLake Discount Foods, to implement the initial Veggie Rx pilot program to address the connectivity between nutrition and primarily preventable health conditions. The main objectives of the Veggie Rx pilot program are to impact overall health and behavioral change in chronic care patients and their families by increasing access to and consumption of fresh produce, as well as influencing daily habits through nutrition education.

"Medical providers and patients both need more tools to address food insecurity and diet-related chronic illness. Through Veggie Rx, our hospital and clinic can be a driver to get patients access to the healthy food that they want and need." says Angi Mohr, president, SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee. “This generous grant will allow the program to grow and expand and help us achieve health equity in our community.”

A perceived barrier to consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is the associated cost. Veggie Rx removes that hurdle by providing resources to make these healthy foods more readily  accessible. Participating health care providers write “prescriptions” for their patients to eat more fruits and vegetables, which are filled at FireLake Discount Foods and Homeland Grocery Stores. Participants also have opportunities to participate in nutrition educational opportunities including cooking demonstrations, grocery store tours and resource information sessions.

The TCI grant will allow Veggie Rx to serve more local patients, partner with additional grocers and address transportation challenges faced by some participants.

“We are pleased to be able to help support such a worthwhile program – one that addresses a clear need in Pottawatomie County,” offered Matt McGarvey, executive director of TCI. “Ensuring food security and making certain individuals with identified needs are getting access to healthy foods are both important parts of enhancing the overall health of any community, particularly as we navigate the challenges of the pandemic.”   

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TCI, a private, Iowa-based charitable foundation, works to support projects in the priority funding areas of health innovation, health care workforce development and access to care for the underserved. Since 2014, TCI has awarded more than $10.3 million to 251 organizations and projects in Iowa, Illinois, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Findings from the 12-week pilot program confirm the effectiveness of the Veggie Rx approach include:

89 percent of participating patients increased their overall produce consumption

94 percent reported eating fruits and vegetables made a difference in their health

44 percent reported a decrease in their household's food insecurity

73 percent lowered their BMI

Shawnee-based Avedis Foundation President and CEO Dr. Kathy Laster appreciates the cooperative efforts of local community partners to address food insecurity and support healthy lifestyle habits that promote longevity and quality of life of area residents.

“The success of the initial Veggie Rx pilot program demonstrates the importance of community stakeholders taking a collaborative approach in addressing social determinants of health, and I applaud SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee, FireLake Discount Foods and Blue Zones Project for their efforts,” said Laster. “Limited access to affordable, healthy food is a key driver for obesity and diet-related disease in Pottawatomie County, and providing this support to families in a medical setting through Veggie Rx sends a powerful message.”

Area residents can determine their eligibility to participate in the Veggie Rx program by contacting their SSM Health St Anthony – Shawnee primary care physician, or one of the hospital’s registered dietitians at (405) 273-5801.

For more information regarding Veggie Rx, please visit facebook.com/VeggieRxOklahoma.

About SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee

SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee has been serving the health needs of Pottawatomie County and surrounding areas for over 50 years, offering a wide range of services in a state-of-the-art facility with physicians and staff who are dedicated to providing exceptional health care consistent with our mission.

St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee is a member of SSM Health, a Catholic, not-for-profit health system serving the comprehensive health needs of communities across the Midwest through a robust and fully integrated health care delivery system. The organization’s nearly 40,000 employees and 11,000 providers are committed to providing exceptional health care services and revealing God’s healing presence to everyone they serve.

With care delivery sites in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, SSM Health includes 23 hospitals, more than 290 physician offices and other outpatient and virtual care services, 10 post-acute facilities, comprehensive home care and hospice services, a pharmacy benefit company, a health insurance company and an accountable care organization. It is one of the largest employers in every community it serves. For more information, visit ssmhealth.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Telligen Community Initiative

Telligen Community Initiative (TCI) is the charitable foundation of Telligen, Inc., a private, nonprofit health care intelligence company. TCI seeks to empower organizations and citizens to improve their individual and overall community health. TCI funding is designed to initiate and support innovative health-related projects designed to improve health, social well-being, and educational attainment. The foundation’s funding focuses on project support in Iowa, Illinois, and Oklahoma within the areas of health innovation, health for the underserved and healthcare workforce development. For more information about TCI, please visit telligenci.org

About Blue Zones Project

Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city's environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is based on research by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five cultures of the world—or blue zones —with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner's findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Currently, 51 communities across North America have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 3.4 million citizens. The population health solution includes two Health Districts in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth, Texas; Corry, Pennsylvania; Airdrie, Alberta; Brevard, North Carolina; and communities in Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Blue Zones Project is a partnership between Blue Zones, LLC, and Sharecare, Inc. For more information, visit bluezonesproject.com.