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Utilization Patterns of a Food Referral Program: Findings from the Mid-Ohio Farmacy

Journal Title Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Published Date November 12, 2021
Research Topic
Research Type


Introduction: There is limited evidence describing utilization of clinic-based food referral programs intended to support healthy eating for food-insecure patients. To address this gap, this study aims to describe the utilization of the Mid-Ohio Farmacy (MOF). MOF is a partnership between a regional foodbank and local health care providers, including an academic medical center (AMC), that enables referrals of patients that experience food insecurity to a network of participating food pantries.

Methods: This observational study uses data from 2 AMC family medicine clinics that offered the MOF referral from September 2019 to November 2020. Patients who screened positive for food insecurity and had an eligible chronic disease (eg, diabetes, hypertension, obesity) were referred to the MOF. We compared demographic and clinical characteristics of patients that filled their referral (ie, visitors) to those that did not (ie, non-visitors). Among visitors, we also assessed patterns of pantry utilization.

Results: In total, 51% (164 of 322) of patients referred to the MOF visited a food pantry at least once. Visitors were more likely to be older, have diabetes, and have visited a food pantry before their referral. Patients with uncontrolled hypertension were less likely to visit a food pantry following their referral. Patients that had visited a food pantry before their referral had more visits in total and more produce-specific visits following their referral.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that while the MOF can connect patients to food resources, further attention may be needed to encourage its use among patients who have not previously accessed pantries. ( J Am Board Fam Med 2021;34:1174–1182.)