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Lakewood Engage Food Access Initiatives

  • Need: Lakewood, Minnesota is classified as a food desert, where many rural families face food insecurity and low availability of both nutritious and affordable provisions.
  • Intervention: A collection of programs address food insecurity and the dietary health of members of the community, from children and families to older adults, supplying them with locally-sourced fruits, vegetables, and meat.
  • Results: Lakewood Engage conducts around 30,000 food insecurity screenings each year. Fresh produce, meat, and other goods are distributed to roughly 130 families (around 500 individuals), 200 seniors, and 70 school-aged children annually.


Food insecurity is an issue that faces 9.5% of Minnesota households statewide, or nearly one out of ten households, as explained by Hunger Solutions Minnesota. In the rural community of Lakewood, Minnesota, the issues surrounding food insecurity are compounded by the fact that the area is classified as a food desert, as defined by the USDA, with both a significant low-income population and low access to grocery and convenience stores.

In 2014, Lakewood Health System began Lakewood Engage, a program designed to help address the needs of individuals and families who indicated that they faced food insecurity. To identify food insecurity, Lakewood uses the Hunger Vital Sign screening questions. Based on a yearly community needs assessment, Lakewood Engage develops approaches to meet the diverse needs of their food insecure patients. The program supplies nutritionally rich produce, meat, and/or shelf stable options for its participants.

To learn more about the program, watch this brief video:

Lakewood Engage has several community state-wide partners:

Services offered

Currently, Lakewood Engage has six different programs community members may participate in to receive their groceries:

Acute Care Packs

This is for immediate use after a patient indicates that they are facing food insecurity. In addition to referring them to other local resources (some of which may be closed for the day/weekend,) the clinic can also provide immediate relief by sending a box of non-perishable food items home with the patient. These are designed for a family of 2 – 4, although larger families can be given multiple boxes. This program serves an average of 50 patients per month.

Food Farmacy

Lakewood's Food Farmacy, where participants get their "prescriptions" of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, distributes an average of 4,000 pounds of food each month. The location currently serves around 130 families or 500 individuals. Each package contains around 15 – 20 pounds of produce and 8 – 10 pounds of meat, based on need and household size. There are two prescriptions: "low dose," used by most of the participants, is a monthly pick-up; and "high dose," a bi-weekly pick-up for individuals who have factors that put them at higher risk for food insecurity.

Fresh Delivered

This program serves roughly 200 seniors in a local housing community for older adults who have a low income, or those who live with disabilities. As transportation may be a struggle for many of the building's residents, the food is instead brought to their location.

Farmers Market

Lakewood Engage began hosting the Staples Area Farmer's Market on Lakewood Health Systems campus in 2014. This created a space to buy fresh, local produce within the community, as well as incentive for growers to expand their programs to meet market demand. Additionally, Lakewood Engage provides farmer's market vouchers for those who are food insecure and could otherwise not afford to purchase food at the market.

Fresh Frozen Meal Programs

Meals at Discharge

  • Patients 55 years and older who have undergone a major surgery that would make shopping for, preparing, and cooking meals a difficult task can sign up for a 28 day intervention where fresh frozen meals created by a dietitian and prepared by Hilltop Regional Kitchen are delivered to their door.

Meals at COVID+

  • Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 may also receive two weeks of fresh frozen meals from Hilltop Regional Kitchen, in an effort to aid in their self-isolation to eliminate the need for them to go to the grocery store, and aid in their recovery by removing the stress of cooking meals.


Annually, Lakewood Engage has:

  • Conducted over 30,000 food insecurity screenings
  • Provided roughly 50 acute care packs per month
  • Served 130 families, or around 500 individuals with their Food Farmacy
  • Provided an average of 48,000 pounds of food with the Food Farmacy program
  • Delivered goods to roughly 200 seniors with low income and/or disabilities
  • Given about 70 school-aged children nutritious take-home meals
  • Served post-surgery meals to around 10 older adults per month
  • Referred an average of 12 patients to their COVID positive meal program per week
  • Distributed 14,000 meals to COVID positive patients from October 2020 through March 2021


  • Building relationships with members of the community who prize being self-sufficient, and getting them to take advantage of the resources offered
  • Getting fresh produce to isolated rural residents who face food insecurity, but who may struggle with transportation to the Food Farmacy
  • Securing fresh food for the program in the winter months
  • Cost – although this might be a barrier at first, the long term health of the community and the decrease in their needs for hospital services will save money overall, and vastly improve quality of life


  • Conduct food insecurity screenings and assess community needs
  • Research available grant funding both nationally and locally
  • Foster relationships with local growers/producers

Contact Information

Alicia Bauman Lakewood Engage
Lakewood Health Systems Lakewood Engage

Elderly population
Food security and nutrition
Social determinants of health

Date added
August 5, 2021

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2021. Lakewood Engage Food Access Initiatives [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2022]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.