The MGH Revere HealthCare Center is offering a new prescription for some of its patients who may be dealing with hunger or poor nutrition, which can lead to chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. MGH Revere HealthCare Center is taking on the issue by piloting its first therapeutic food pantry. On Feb. 7, Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, health center leadership and community supporters came together for a ribbon-cutting to formally launch the effort.

Jacob Mirsky, MD, primary care physician and medical director of the food pantry, spoke about the struggle with food insecurity for an alarming number of his patients. “Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” Mirsky said. “It’s no wonder that some of the worst control of blood pressure and diabetes across all of MGH is right here in our own backyard.”

Launching a food pantry has long been a shared vision for Roger Pasinski, MD, Revere HealthCare Center medical director, and Debra Jacobson, administrative director at MGH Revere, and within a month of Mirsky’s arriving to the health center, a multidisciplinary team had been assembled and a plan set.

During the pilot phase, the therapeutic food pantry is not open to all health center patients or the public. It is currently available one day a week to specifically targeted patients who have Medicaid ACO insurance, have screened positive for food insecurity through the health center, and have nutrition-related chronic disease such as obesity, hypertension or diabetes.

A unique feature of the food pantry is that the food is predominantly plant-based. “There isn’t an ounce of red meat, cheese, soda or candy in our pantry – and there never will be,” said Mirsky. To encourage healthy cooking, spices, pots, pans and recipe assistance are also being offered.

Mirsky and his team will be measuring the success of the pilot and planning its expansion in hopes that eventually all MGH patients can benefit, and they are working toward becoming the healthiest food pantry in the greater Boston area. “No patient who can receive world-class cancer or cardiology treatment five miles away should go to bed hungry or suffer from a preventable disease that we have the power to avoid,” said Mirsky.