Good nutrition helps to fuel good health, but what happens when you can't afford it? One pilot program is trying to solve that problem for low-income patients in Washoe County. 

An ongoing effort has already served healthy meals to more than 9,000 low income patients with heart disease and diabetes. Through the Prescription Pantry program, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada along with seven emergency food pantries, provide healthy options to food insecure households with special dietary needs. 

Jocelyn Lantrip, Director of Marketing and Communications for the food bank explains, "We provide low sodium, fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins that make sense for those patients."

The goal is to improve the health of low-income patients who otherwise cannot afford fresh produce or other healthy options that may be more expensive than other foods. Health providers also play a big role in the effort, identifying who needs that help.

Doctors ask their patients if they are having trouble getting the healthy food they need throughout the month. If they answer yes, doctors point them to the Prescription Pantry program.

Those patients can then head to one of the pantries, present their prescriptions, and volunteers there will know exactly what foods they should be looking for, depending on their ailments. To make it easier for patients, the pantries have labeled those options as 'healthy picks'.

Although this pilot program only started last fall, word is spreading quick. Cindy Becher, the director of the food pantry at St. Francis of Assisi says that pantry, alone has already seen about 30 prescription clients.

Becher remembers one mother, in particular, "She came in here and she was almost in tears. She said, 'This is amazing, my daughter is diabetic, I'm a diabetic, so now I can get some food that will help my whole family.'"

Right now, coordinators are studying the program with demographics, surveys and follow-ups with doctors. They hope to serve 19,000 people within the first year. If it's successful, the Prescription Pantry program could expand to more food pantries in the future. 

Current participating pantry locations and hours: 

  • St. Michael Catholic Church Stead; 10475 Mt. Vida St, Reno. Thursdays 3:30-5 PM
  • Sparks Seventh Day Adventist Church: 2990 N. Rock Blvd., Sparks. 1st & 3rd Fridays 12-1 PM
  • The Community Food Pantry: 1135 12th St., Sparks. Wednesdays 10 AM-12 PM, Saturdays 9-11 AM, 4th Wednesdays 5:30-7 PM (March-Sep. Only)
  • Destiny Christian Center Downtown Reno: 255 Bell St, Reno. Sundays at 1 PM
  • Community Health Alliance (CHA) Food Pantry: 1055 S. Wells Ave, Reno. Monday-Friday 8 AM-5 PM (CHA Patients Only) 
  • St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry: 160 Hubbard Way, Suite F, Reno. Monday, Tuesday & Thursday 1-3 PM. 3rd Wednesday, 5-7 PM
  • Rehoboth Holy Temple: 700 C Smithridge Drive, Reno. Mondays 4-6 PM