The following article first appeared in the Med School Watercooler: The blog of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine on June 29, 2017.
USA Health recently partnered with Feeding the Gulf Coast to implement “Boxing Out Hunger,” an innovative program designed to improve health by addressing food insecurities in the clinical setting at Stanton Road Clinic.
“Being a board member for Feeding the Gulf Coast, I feel very strongly about what they do to help the community and, of course, I am very passionate about the work that USA Health does,” said Dr. Julee Waldrop, representing both the University of South Alabama and Feeding the Gulf Coast at a recent kick-off event. “The ‘Boxing Out Hunger’ program is truly a great partnership, and it is my hope that Feeding the Gulf Coast will be integrated into the entire health system.”
According to Kim Lawkis, nutrition programs director for Feeding the Gulf Coast, one in six adults and one in four children struggle with food insecurity. “Feeding the Gulf Coast was selected as one of only five food banks in the U.S. to participate in Feeding America’s Health Care Pilot Program,” she said. “This pilot focuses on our organization expanding access to fresh, healthy products and working with health care partners to help implement programs that directly address food insecurity and top priorities in their community health plan.”
The program — which is unique to our area — seeks to fill a nutritional gap that exists for many patients who visit Stanton Road Clinic. Through phase one of the partnership, Stanton Road Clinic will distribute 1,000 healthy pre-packaged boxes to food insecure patients that contain an assortment of shelf-stable ingredients such as canned produce, protein, dairy, and grains. The food box is intended to meet the immediate needs of patients at the clinic and educate them on the importance of a healthy diet. Recipe cards are also included in the food boxes, which provide tips for preparing the food.
Beth Poates, a social worker with USA Health, will determine eligibility for food boxes by screening all new and self-pay patients for food insecurity. If the patient screens positive for food insecurity, they will receive a food box that is tailored to their health concerns. Patients who do not screen positive will be referred to the closest food bank.
Owen Bailey, chief executive officer for USA Health, said a visit to Boston Medical Center’s Food Pantry several years ago sparked his interest in implementing the “Boxing Out Hunger” program at USA Health. “Using their success as inspiration, it is my hope that USA Health and Feeding the Gulf Coast can create similar success in Mobile to address nutrition-related illnesses and improve the outcomes for our patients,” he said.
According to Ali Shropshire, CRNP, family nurse practitioner and nurse manager for Stanton Road Clinic, the connection between adequate nutrition and health and healing is clearly documented in the medical literature. “We believe that the ‘Boxing Out Hunger Program’ will increase our patient compliance, decrease blood pressure, decrease blood sugar and overall decrease hospital utilization,” she said. “I am proud of the tremendous progress we have made and the opportunity to work with our new partner Feeding the Gulf Coast in achieving these goals.”
Dr. Errol Crook, director of the Center for Healthy Communities and professor and Abraham Mitchell Chair of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine, said patients visiting Stanton Road Clinic often have insecurities that go beyond health. “Stanton Road Clinic is a community clinic, but we define community in a very broad sense,” he said. “We have patients who walk or take the bus here, but we also have patients who come from other counties. In addition to health, many of our patients experience insecurities in safety, shelter, and clothing. We are very happy to now have a way to address one of those insecurities, and by doing so we hope to one day be able to address the other major insecurities they experience.”
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