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Trillium Health receives nearly $1 million to launch “Food Pharmacy” pilot program in partnership with Headwater Food Hub and EquiCenter

Feb 26, 2024

Innovative program will increase access to fresh produce and provide nutrition education for people with certain diet-related chronic illnesses

February 26, 2024 (Rochester, NY) – Trillium Health, in collaboration with Headwater Food Hub and EquiCenter, has been awarded a $999,631 grant from the City of Rochester to launch a Food Pharmacy program for city residents, where patients will be “prescribed” fresh food to help improve their health outcomes. Under the 33-month pilot, Trillium Health patients who are food insecure or have certain diet-related health conditions will be referred to the Trillium Health Food Pantry, where each month they can receive one nutrient-dense box of fresh produce from Headwater Food Hub. Additionally, a portion of those referred patients will be selected to take part in an in-depth nutrition education program offered in conjunction with EquiCenter, which will teach them about growing fresh produce and how to prepare meals.

The grant was made possible through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and was approved by the Rochester City Council. The funding will also be used to create two new positions at Trillium Health to help administer the program: a Supervisor of Food Services and a Nutrition Health Educator.

Produce Referral Program: a “prescription” for healthy eating

Trillium Health will screen patients to determine who can benefit from the Food Pharmacy Program. Patients experiencing food insecurity or who have hypertension, diabetes, or pre-diabetes (all of which can be diet-related illnesses) will be referred to the Trillium Health Food Pantry to receive monthly boxes of fresh produce. The nutrient-dense boxes of produce will be provided by Headwater Food Hub and will be distributed with healthy recipe cards. The boxes will initially be available to 200 households each month (the boxes will be distributed to patients referred under the Food Pharmacy Program and to regular clients of the Trillium Health Food Pantry who reside in the City of Rochester). The number of monthly households served will gradually increase to 265 by 2026. A total of 7,710 fresh food boxes will be distributed by the conclusion of the pilot program. Trillium Health will work with Headwater to identify which items are in high demand based on dietary needs and foods that are culturally relevant to the clients being served.

Nutrition Education Program

Experience has shown that some food pantry clients avoid fresh food – even when they have access to it – because they do not know how to prepare it. To help remove this barrier to healthy eating, Trillium Health is partnering with EquiCenter to provide in-depth nutrition education. Of the patients referred to receive fresh produce, 60 people will be identified each year to participate in a multi-month-long course that will teach them about growing and preparing nutrient-dense fresh food. The course will include monthly excursions to the EquiCenter farm, where participants will be able to experience a full growing season – from seed germination to harvesting. Each trip will include a 90-minute cooking lesson, a communal meal, and time for personal and group reflection on what was learned. Participants will also be given produce from the farm to take home and use in meal preparation.

The Food Pharmacy pilot program will begin in the next few months and will continue into 2026. The purpose of the program is to expand access to and consumption of nutrient-dense food, particularly fresh produce, in the City of Rochester. Anticipated outcomes of the program include:

  • An increase in the number of city households that receive nutrient dense fresh produce boxes;
  • An improvement in chronic food-related health conditions among city residents; and
  • Improved health literacy regarding the correlation between food and chronic health conditions.

“Trillium Health is always looking at ways to reduce barriers to care and find new ways to meet the needs of our community, and offering a Food Pharmacy program is a perfect way to further the mission of our organization,” said Jason Barnecut-Kearns, President and CEO of Trillium Health. “With the Trillium Health Food Pantry now being one of the largest in Monroe County, we are well aware of the high levels of food insecurity experienced by many of our clients and others in the community. We also know how a lack of nutrient-dense fresh food can have a direct impact on health. That is why we are so excited to offer this innovative new program to not only improve access to fresh produce, but to also provide nutritional education, which can put participants on a life-changing journey toward better health. We are incredibly grateful to be partnering with Headwater Food Hub and EquiCenter on this project. Additionally, we would like to thank Mayor Malik Evans and the Rochester City Council for awarding the funds to make this collaboration possible.”

Annelise Bay, Senior Program Manager at Headwater Food Hub said: “Headwater is excited to collaborate with Trillium Health and Equicenter on Trillium’s Food Pharmacy Program. We will be working with Trillium to curate food boxes containing fresh, local produce that is procured from our network of New York farmers. Recipients will be well prepared to utilize the items in these boxes as they concurrently participate in educational programming at Equicenter. This program has embraced a truly holistic approach, allowing Headwater and Trillium to build on our work of creating a sustainable and equitable food system, and making good food accessible to everyone.”

Statement from EquiCenter:

“We are proud to be a part of Trillium’s Food Pharmacy Program that combines the direct access to fresh, locally grown produce with the educational programming that we will be offering on-site at EquiCenter. We are confident that this innovative program will impact participants’ perspectives and relationships with fresh foods; and in doing so, will empower participants to incorporate what they learn at the EquiCenter Farm into their daily lives, and the lives of their families and communities. Trillium’s program has the potential to do more than just impact the wellness of the individuals we’re serving, it is designed to create community leaders who can have a broad and lasting impact on the relationships between food and health in Rochester.” 

About Trillium Health:

Trillium Health is a community health center dedicated to providing extraordinary care to individuals regardless of their ability to pay. With its holistic approach to healthcare, Trillium Health has a team of dedicated professionals – including physicians, nurses, care managers, and pharmacists – who work together to ensure that each patient receives the comprehensive and compassionate care they deserve. Trillium Health is proud to serve everyone who walks through their doors – regardless of income, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or ethnicity. For more information, please visit

About Headwater Food Hub:

As a Certified B-Corp, Headwater believes in the power of business to create positive change. Our Food Hub model works in partnership with farmers, processors, and customers of all types to think, plan, and act together collaboratively. Our business model seeks to build collective success, broader community impacts, and a path towards a more socially, economically, and environmentally just food system.

About EquiCenter:

EquiCenter, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and accredited member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH), offers therapeutic equestrian and horticulture programs for all ages and abilities, with a focus on those with disabilities, at-risk youth, and Veterans. Nestled on 200 acres in Honeoye Falls, EquiCenter utilizes the healing power of horses and nature to create a supportive and inclusive environment. Participants not only develop new skills but experience joy, find purpose and make meaningful connections.