Campus News

UK Food as Health Alliance receives inaugural grant from the American Heart Association

Alison Gustafson
Alison Gustafson is director of the Food as Health Alliance at UK. Photo by Sabrina Hounsell.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 16, 2024) — The Food as Health Alliance (FAHA), housed in the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, has received a grant from the American Heart Association (AHA). UK is among the first recipients of AHA’s Health Care by Food Initiative awards.

FAHA director Alison Gustafson will examine how a user-centered design program can improve screening, referral enrollment and engagement in food is medicine programs for adults experiencing food insecurity and diagnosed with hypertension. This grant will take place with UK HealthCare and Appalachian Regional Healthcare with key partnerships from Instacart, Kroger Health with Soda Health, Mom’s Meals and Food City.

FAHA is uniting diverse health care, managed care, non-profit and industry collaborators to facilitate screening, referral and enrollment processes. The goal is to identify the most suitable and effective model(s) in the short term, while also considering design elements for long-term sustainability and scalability. This initiative specifically targets individuals facing food insecurity and those with diet-sensitive chronic diseases.

“We are honored to be part of the American Heart Association ‘Health Care by Food’ initiative with so many esteemed researchers,” said Gustafson, professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. “We are looking forward to working with our partners across the state to improve screening, referral and enrollment practices to improve patient outcomes.”

Gustafson has partnered with Instacart, Mom’s Meals and Food City on current pilot projects across Kentucky to help develop the infrastructure for patients receiving food as medicine programs. Currently, the team is developing a referral hub for health-related social needs (HRSB) with key organizations in Kentucky.

“Integrating research efforts in collaboration with institutions nationwide will help identify cost- effective food is medicine interventions to improve health and make healthy food an essential component of health care,” said Kevin G. Volpp, M.D., Ph.D., the association’s Health Care by Food initiative research lead, the association’s Presidential Advisory on food is medicine writing group chair and Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics Director at the University of Pennsylvania.

FAHA seeks to bring together clinical and community research spanning across agriculture, food, health care and nutrition to address food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease. Researchers, community partners, food commodity producers, health care partners and students will explore innovative strategies to improve patient clinical outcomes and Kentuckians’ health.

“This award is an acknowledgment of the tremendous work the Food as Health Alliance has already been doing to address inequities related to food insecurity and chronic disease across Kentucky,” said Carolyn Lauckner, assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at the UK College of Medicine and co-principal investigator on the grant with Gustafson.

“The grant demonstrates an investment in our efforts to use food as medicine to improve individuals’ health by targeting the link between food insecurity and cardiovascular disease,” said Lauckner. “I am thrilled to be working with this outstanding group of scholars and practitioners committed to using innovative, community-engaged research methods to improve the health of all Kentuckians.”

For more information on FAHA, visit For more information about the American Heart Association’s Health Care by Food Initiative, visit

This work was supported by American Heart Association grant #24FIM1255467/Alison Gustafson/2024.

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