October 22, 2021

Prescription for a healthy diet

CRMC to launch program aimed at helping families improve nutrition choices, eating habits

Photos by Todd R. McAdam/contributing photographer

Diane Shaffer, executive chef at Cortland Regional Medical Center, prepares stuffed mushroom caps — mushrooms, brown rice, cream cheese, garlic and pesto — for a dinner Tuesday night. She will also give cooking demonstrations as part of a nutrition education program the hospital plans with a $2,500 grant. The elements remain the same: basic ingredients, cooking technique, and shopping strategies to make healthy cooking affordable.

The Cortland Regional Medical Center will have the ability next year to help families prevent diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, with the help of a $2,500 grant.

The hospital will launch a free preventive care “Food Prescription Program,” which will help five to 10 families deemed at high risk of diet-related diseases, based on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s Guide to clinical preventive services, said Mark Webster, president of the hospital.

“The Food Prescription Program will address the participants’ need to make lifestyle changes through healthy eating,” Webster said in a written statement. “It will give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to make wholesome, affordable meals.”

The hospital was awarded a $2,500 grant from National Grid, which it applied for, to do the program.

The program is still being developed, Michelle Nardi, a registered dietitian with the hospital said, as this is the first year for the program at the hospital.

However, she did state the program will probably be six classes over six weeks. Families will learn about:

• Food groups and meal planning.
• Reading nutrition labels.
• Healthy cooking substitutions.
• Cooking on a budget.
• Healthy eating for special occasions.

A Culinary Institute of America trained chef will provide cooking demonstrations and the class will probably culminate in a grocery store tour, Nardi said.

“Grocery shopping can be a little overwhelming,” she said.

The tour will help families find what is actually healthy, what certain terms mean and what being healthy actually means.

About half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor eating patterns and physical inactivity, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Also, more than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese.

Participants in the program will receive a voucher to cover the cost of a week’s worth of healthy groceries for their family, Webster said.

How the families are selected for the program has not been 100 percent finalized, Nardi said. The hospital will work with physicians to identify families who would be in most of need of the program, Nardi said.

People who are at risk of a diet- related disease would be top candidates.

Physicians would give a prescription to the patient to take part in the program, as it is not open to the general public at this time, Nardi said.

“The prescription from the physician will assure the participant is a good candidate for the class based on nutritional risk factors,” Nardi said.

The program will be a preventive approach to treating dietrelated diseases, Nardi said. The current challenge is treatments are more reactive now. She said insurance companies are more likely to cover those who already have a problem, than potentially developing one.

No start date has been set, yet, but Nardi said it would take place next year. The hospital hopes to continue the program beyond next year, as well.