Eating Well: Jesse Hill Market offers healthy food access for patients and the public

Shoppers the Jesse Hill Market. (Courtesy Grady)

Grady Health System’s main campus in Downtown now includes Jesse Hill Market, a public café where patients, employees, visitors, and community members can access healthy, affordable food.

Located just outside the main entrance in the Butler Parking Deck, the market also houses the Food Prescription program to help referred Grady patients better manage diet-related chronic conditions, like diabetes.

“Our goal is to serve 2,000 patients a year,” said Leslie Marshburn, Grady Executive Director of Strategy & Population Health. “Once referred they can walk downstairs to the market to get their first 20-pound box of produce – a mix of shelf stable items (brown rice, dried lentils, oats) and fresh produce (potatoes, apples, oranges, pairs, carrot, lettuce) and pick that up twice a month for up to 12 months.”

Food prescriptions also include cooking classes and nutrition counseling from registered dieticians. Participating patients are required to follow-up with their doctor every three months.

“We’re going to provide you with the tools and skills to maximize the impact on your health,” Marshburn said.

Jesse Hill Market is an example of how different sectors can come together to solve problems. It’s the realization of a concept developed in partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Open Hand Atlanta. Together they conducted a successful joint fundraising campaign, in which individuals, companies and foundations provided support for the construction of the market and the first three years of program operating costs.

“We wanted to convert that space that used to be a fast food restaurant to a healthy food pharmacy – because we know how important food is to health and wellness” said Kyle Waide, President and CEO of Atlanta Community Food Bank. “What is unique about this project is the combination of all of these elements – café, food pharmacy, connection to public benefits and nutrition education.”

Preparing food for the market.

The Food Bank sources the fresh vegetables fruits, and healthy starches, grains, and proteins to fill the food prescriptions primarily from Georgia famers. They also staff Benefits Outreach screeners on site to connect patients to benefit programs, such as SNAP and Medicare savings accounts.

Open Hand is responsible for the revenue generating public offerings at the market. Using their social enterprise brand Good Measure Meals, 100 percent of net proceeds support their mission and the market.

“This is a whole new way to create access to healthier meals. Typically, we are a home delivered meal service. This is our first bricks and mortar,” said Matt Pieper, Executive Director of Open Hand Atlanta.

“We prepare grab-and-go meals and snacks in our Midtown campus and deliver them to the market every day – where we will sell them to the paying public at an affordable rate. There’s rarely been a day we haven’t sold out by the end of the day.”

That’s because Grady employees and visitors have quickly embraced the café.

“Oftentimes when I think about eating healthy, I think, ‘oh my gosh the food is going to taste bad,” Grady employee Renee Ogoun said. “With Good Measure Meals the food is healthy, prices are reasonable, and best of all the meals are flavorful.  My favorite item is the lemon grass chicken wrap. I know that whatever I buy is going to be worth talking about to my coworkers, or with the cashier Robin.”

Jesse Hill Market is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday for patients picking up food prescriptions.  Cooking classes are currently for patients and employees. The market follows the CDC COVID-19 protocols.

“This collaboration represents one-stop shopping for individuals of all levels of the social-economic spectrum.  And holds great promise for being replicated in other community based health care systems,” Pieper said.

Inside the market.

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