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The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has opened a food pharmacy where patients and their families can access healthy food in the hospital. (Photo by Jeffrey M. Vinocur | CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recently opened a new food pharmacy for patients and their families on Jan. 23, making it the first pediatric hospital-based food bank and education center in West Philadelphia.

The new Healthy Weight Food Pharmacy provides healthy foods and nutritional education for patients who indicate that they face food insecurity. After being screened, the families can receive a free three-day supply of healthy perishable and nonperishable goods. If necessary, they may be eligible to receive additional food in the future.

Twenty one percent of Philadelphia residents are food insecure, Food Pharmacy Director Saba Khan told CBSPhilly. She added that the new program is designed to help decrease food insecurity in low-income neighborhoods. 

"It's our way of saying, we're not just here for today but we're here for the long haul, the long journey," Khan told ABC.

The pharmacy is part of CHOP's Healthy Weight Program. The initiative, started in 2005, works to prevent and treat childhood obesity through research, community education and outreach, and a Healthy Weight Clinic. Food insecurity is a risk factor for obesity: Many families do not have access to healthy foods, and junk food is often cheaper and more convenient.

Since the center's unofficial opening in September, it has provided almost 2,000 pounds of food to around 100 patients and their families, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported