ATLANTA — A market is opening at Grady Memorial Hospital aimed at transforming the lives of patients, staff members, and visitors. And the concept may catch on at hospitals across America.
In a bold move, Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, a leading trauma hospital in the Southeast, has transformed an on-site fast food restaurant that closed in 2016 into a fresh market offering fruit, produce, and pre-packaged meals to-go.
Two Atlanta non-profits, The Atlanta Community Food Bank and Open Hand are helping to coordinate the effort and encourage Grady's 7,000 staff members, visitors, and patients alike to eat healthily. The Market is also offering free nutritional counseling and cooking classes to patients in need of nutritional guidance.
"If you screen positive for food insecurity and have a diet-related illness starting off with diabetes, then you will get a prescription to the food pharmacy. Then, twice a month, you will come in and get 20 pounds of stable shelf product as well as produce,” Leslie Marshburn, the executive director of strategy and population health for Grady Health said.
Alongside Marshburn are Grady patient navigators like Renee Ogoun, who work directly with hospital patients enrolled in the food program. The program is expected to handle as many as 2,500 Grady patients each year.
“They (the patients) want to have different lifestyle changes," Odoun said. "They are just not in a position to actually do that, so for us to actually offer them the opportunity for up to a year, well I don’t know how much more awesome it could get.”
And on the pre-packaged side of Grady Market, where hospital staff and visitors alike purchase nutritious meals, snacks, and sandwiches, Open Hand Executive Director Matt Pieper said the food is selling out as fast as the shelves are stocked.
“It is quality food. High nutritional standards. No preservatives. Freshly prepared in our midtown kitchens every day and that is the kind of food that people crave these days.” Pieper said.
At the end of the Market day, the near-empty shelves prove his point.
The Grady Fresh Market is officially named the Jesse Hill Market, after a leading Atlanta African-American insurance executive who was known for spending countless hours in a nearby church serving food to Atlanta's homeless.
A spokesperson for Grady said all the fruits and vegetables at the market are sourced from Georgia farmers.