Bay Area Community Health
Rescuing Food to Heal People and the Planet
How can it be that fresh healthy produce goes to waste every day when it could be just what the doctor ordered for many patients? Nonprofit Bay Area Community Health (BACH), formerly Tri-City Health Center, has found a way to tackle both issues. Serving patients in southern Alameda and Santa Clara counties, BACH provides not only health care and education, but also prioritizes the social and nutritional needs of their patients. Often that means writing a prescription for healthy food from the “Food Farmacy,” a monthly pop-up at BACH’s Liberty Clinic in Fremont.
“Many of our patients with hypertension, obesity or malnutrition-related problems also suffer from food insecurity or lack access to fresh produce and other nutritious food,” said Trushna Nagindas, Patient Wellness Program Manager at BACH, who was instrumental in creating the Food Farmacy in 2019.
Partnering with another nonprofit, Daily Bowl, BACH rescues fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets in Fremont and Union City and distributes them once a month to more than 50 patients, along with other foods like tuna, low-sodium beans, and cereal. To help patients create new eating and cooking habits, BACH also holds classes and provides recipes. However, until recently capacity was limited—not by the amount of surplus fresh produce at the markets but by BACH’s ability to collect and store the perishable items.
Small investments go a long way
That’s where a waste prevention equipment grant from StopWaste made a big difference, said Nagindas. “We used the funds to purchase a refrigerator for the food donations, reusable crates that can be efficiently stacked, and other items to pick up produce from farmers’ markets,” she said.
The new equipment not only helps keep fruits and veggies fresh but also reduces the number of staff needed to pick up and transport the food. Nagindas estimates that BACH will be able to increase the amount of food rescued each month from 300-400 pounds to 1,200-1,600 pounds. They are hoping to expand the Food Farmacy program from monthly to at least every other week, serving more patients more often.