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Eskenazi Health expands Fresh for You Market to increase healthy food access

The market has grown from humble beginnings inside a hospital cafeteria to feature a full kitchen and more.
Fully stocked shelves inside Eskenazi Health's Fresh for You market
Photo: Eskenazi Health

Eskenazi Health’s Fresh for You Market began in 2017 as a small food pantry located inside the hospital’s main cafeteria.

From day one, it aimed to help Eskenazi patients and staff who were experiencing food insecurity and advance the hospital’s initiative around food as medicine.

While the market’s goals remain the same today, its look has completely transformed. It now occupies its own space near the hospital entrance, complete with a full-fledged grocery store and kitchen.

“It's a completely new version of what we started in 2017, and we're super excited to see the momentum that's behind it,” says Director of Food Strategy and Retail Operations Seth Grant.

The market, which is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., provides a place for patients and the greater Indianapolis community to purchase, learn about and prepare whole ingredients.

Current features

The latest version of Fresh for You carries canned goods, shelf-stable products, fresh produce, dairy, meat and more. Additional freezer and cooling space will be added next month to expand the number of frozen offerings.

In keeping with its goals, Fresh for You uses a voucher program developed by Eskenazi that screens admitted patients for food insecurity. If they are considered food insecure, patients receive vouchers to use at the market. Unlike other pantries or grocery stores, which may limit some patrons to certain items or areas of the store, patients with vouchers can shop anywhere in the market.

“It's really important to me that we find a way to allow individuals to shop in a pantry-type setting, but shop with dignity,” says Grant.

The team is also getting ready to install kiosks that will help connect food-insecure customers to other resources in the community, such as local shelters and workforce development opportunities.

“One of our biggest goals for this operation is to not just have the traditional approach of giving somebody a box of food and then seeing them again a week later, but really to give them a box of food and then connect them with the resources needed to get them out of the pantry line,” says Grant.

Hospital employees and community members who are not experiencing food insecurity can also shop at the market, with profits going right back into the voucher program.

Another addition is a full-fledged kitchen, which provides space for the dining team to sell hot lunch to staff and guests. The nutrition team is working with local chefs to come up with different menu items for the market and hopes that the partnership will draw interest and traffic back to area restaurants. Just like profits earned from shopping at the market, money made during lunch service goes into the hospital voucher program.

The kitchen also provides a new home for cooking classes and demos led by the hospital’s dietetics team and executive chefs. Along with showing students how to prepare meals, instructors will be able to walk the class through the market and teach them skills such as how to shop for healthy ingredients and read a nutrition label.

Future plans

While Fresh for You recently opened in its new space, there are already plans to improve and expand upon it.

Mobile ordering and delivery for hospital staff is one such plan, and the team has begun installing lockers throughout campus in anticipation of rolling this out. “We're looking at doing delivery of groceries to those locker locations and making it a convenient option for [workers] to pick up groceries as they leave their shift on campus,” says Grant.

A mobile version of Fresh for You that would serve food-insecure neighborhoods in the area is also on the docket.

“We'll actually be taking the same concept and putting it in a bus that we'll be scheduling throughout the city in different locations so that community members can count on us being at a specific location at a certain time or day of the week,” says Grant.

This is only the beginning for Fresh for You, Grant says, and the team will keep ideating new ways to reach more people who might need a helping hand.

“This is our next step, or rather, giant leap in the Fresh for You Market project, but it's certainly not our last step,” he says.

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