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Skip Navigation LinksHarris Health About Us News Harris Health Awarded $500,000 Sponsorship from Cigna Healthcare to Address Chronic Diabetes, Food Insecurity through Expansion of the Food Rx Program

Harris Health Awarded $500,000 Sponsorship from Cigna Healthcare to Address Chronic Diabetes, Food Insecurity through Expansion of the Food Rx Program

HOUSTON (Oct. 16, 2023) — Harris Health announced today that it received a $500,000 sponsorship from Cigna Healthcare to expand the system's Food Rx Program, a novel initiative supporting people who are food insecure and living with a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes. The funds will allow Harris Health to offer a new, more convenient approach to getting food to its high-risk patients: refrigerated food lockers.

Harris Health currently offers three standalone Food Farmacy sites – mini-stores that stock an array of nutritious fruits, vegetables, canned foods and meats – within three of its healthcare facilities. The addition of the food lockers will allow it to open Food Farmacy locations in other sites that are currently without space. For patients who seek healthcare at these facilities, the food lockers are a way to increase their access to the Food Rx Program.

“The support and confidence in our program by Cigna Healthcare speaks volumes about what Harris Health is achieving for the well-being of our patients," says Chethan Bachireddy, MD, chief health officer, Harris Health. “We understand that food is medicine, and that if our patients don't have access to healthy foods, they are less likely to be healthy and more likely to suffer from diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke."

Currently, eligible patients for the program have a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, with an A1c level above 7 on the glycemic scale, and report food insecurity. Patients are given a “prescription" for up to 30 pounds of free food every two weeks. They also get one-on-one nutrition education, receive lessons on cooking and portion control, and are regularly contacted for follow-up care. They are enrolled in the program for nine months (18 visits).

“Our clinical and population health teams have developed a novel approach to help our patients improve their diabetes through providing nutritious foods, clinic visits and health education. Through Cigna Healthcare's generous sponsorship, we look forward to serving even more patients in the future," Bachireddy adds.

“So many studies have shown the direct link between healthy eating and overall wellness and vitality. You can't have a good health outcome if you don't have the right foods in your diet," says Tim Vessel, general manager for Cigna Healthcare's South Texas market. “That's why we are so grateful to partner with Harris Health on such an impactful program that will promote food security for its high-risk patients."

Once the expansion is complete, which is expected by late 2024 or early 2025, it's anticipated that the Food Farmacy Program will increase the number of people it serves by 160 patients a month.

The two-year sponsorship will cover the cost and operation of the lockers, including installation, annual maintenance, software, cellular routers, antennas, and other expenses. Each locker can accommodate refrigerated and freezer items, and the locker kiosk will allow patients to scan a QR code from their phone to pick up the food. Each locker can maintain the 30 pounds of food given to patients, provide 24-hour access and is available in language preferences of English and Spanish.

Since the start of the Food Farmacy Program in May 2019, nearly 6,400 patients have been served, accounting for more than 22,300 patient visits and 673,000 pounds of food.