A New Type of Pharmacy – On Food Pharmacies and Their Importance for Type II Diabetics

In a world where drug companies and pharmacies remain pervasive, an innovative take on the word “pharmacy” is being developed in Redwood City, CA. A new food pharmacy has just opened up, stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Just what the doctor ordered – literally! Instead of paying supermarket prices for these foods, all you need is a prescription from the doctor.

The first of its kind, this food pharmacy is an annex to the existing Redwood City free clinic known as Samaritan House. Patients with type II diabetes can get a prescription for fruits, vegetables, and even fish from a physician, and then pick up the free food at the pantry to help better manage their diabetes. The food is procured and delivered by the Second Harvest Food Bank, which is one of the largest food banks in the nation, feeding almost a quarter of a million people each month. Second Harvest also provides nutritious cooking demos given by local nutritionists1.

This one-year pilot program serves as a reminder that food is often overlooked as a primary method of treatment and prevention; a reminder we might need during our incessant drive to memorize pharmaceuticals and their mechanisms of action. Even when it is known that a patient’s congestive heart failure and diabetes may not be adequately controlled long term by medication alone, oftentimes physicians are strapped when it comes to options. Providing education on proper nutrition to a patient who simply cannot afford fruits and vegetables remains the passive and limited option, whereas food pharmacies such as Samaritan House are active steps in the right direction.




Featured image credited to the US Department of Agriculture

Manjit Bhandal

​Manjit Bhandal is a member of the Central Michigan University College of Medicine (CMU COM). She graduated with her bachelors degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to entering medical school, she worked as a clinical research assistant at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, with the Berkeley Cardiovascular Medical Group, and at the Stanford Medical School. Her research interests include improving outcomes in cardiac transplantation as well as cardiac tumors. She is an avid reader, and loves food, animals, and traveling. ​

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