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Inspira Health joins food banks, schools to build healthier communities in South Jersey
What do food deserts, poverty, and lack of transportation all have in common? They can prevent individuals and communities from eating a healthy diet, ultimately jeopardizing good health and well-being. A major initiative led by Inspira Health, in partnership with local schools and food banks, is taking aim at these social determinants of health, that have negatively impacted families in our region for decades.
Through the triennial Community Health Needs Assessment, access to healthy foods has been identified as a major challenge for thousands of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem County residents. In 2019, 13% of Cumberland County households experienced food insecurity. The rate in Gloucester was 9.2 percent. Salem County residents travel, on average, the furthest for their food than residents of any other county in New Jersey. Obesity rates in Cumberland and Salem counties are among the highest in the state.
"To truly live our mission of improving the lives of all we serve, we must think and reach beyond the walls of our facilities," said John DiAngelo, president and CEO of Inspira Health. "Partnering with like-minded organizations, who share our commitment to building healthier communities, is essential if we want to effectively address the social determinants of health that challenge so many of our neighbors."
Inspira is partnering with the Food Bank of South Jersey, Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the Gloria Sabater Elementary School and Casimer Dallago Early Childhood Center in Vineland, the Millville Child Family Center, and the Woodbury Junior-Senior High School to provide monthly school-based food pantries. The goal is to provide families who are food insecure with a month's worth of nutritious food and access to nutrition counseling at a convenient location, the local school that their children attend. Inspira will also present assemblies at the schools to promote wellness and teach fun ways for students to add physical activity to their daily routines. Volunteers from Inspira Health and the Inspira Foundation are providing on-site support to the food pantries. “Healthy schools, Healthy Families” has become the mantra for the school-based pantries.
“This important partnership allows the Food Bank of South Jersey, as South Jersey’s largest hunger relief organization, to provide nutritious food directly to food-insecure Woodbury families at a location that is both convenient and familiar,” said Food Bank of South Jersey President and CEO Fred C. Wasiak. “By partnering with Inspira and local schools, we will be able to reach more of our neighbors who face food insecurity and, one day hopefully soon, alleviate the pervasive issue of hunger in this Gloucester County community – creating a more sustainable South Jersey for us all.”
The school-based pantries are expected to provide ongoing access to healthy food for more than 1,800 children and their families during the 2019 – 2020 school year.
Inspira has also teamed up with the Food Bank of South Jersey and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to open food farmacies at its health centers in Bridgeton and Woodbury. The premise is simple: good health starts with great food.
Inspira staff will identify patients who face food insecurity and will connect them with one of the two food farmacies. There, patients will meet with an Inspira registered dietitian and receive nutritious food that is appropriate for any medical conditions they might have. Regularly scheduled meetings with the dietitian will be arranged and nutritious food will be provided at each meeting for up to one year.
"While delivering food is central to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey's mission, so is providing resources to help our neighbors in need maintain healthy and positive lifestyles," said Carlos M. Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. "Alongside Inspira and local schools, we are innovating the way we fight hunger in South Jersey, providing convenient on-site food assistance for school-aged children and their families and addressing chronic medical conditions with nutritious food as a prescription for good health."
Nutrition education and counseling are an integral component of the food farmacies. It allows for a personalized approach to improving the nutrition and health of patients. Regular visits with a dietitian, over the course of a year, will also help food farmacy customers develop healthy eating habits.
"A sufficient supply of nutritious food is critically important for healing and recovery," said Alka Kohli, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical and population health officer for Inspira Health. "And for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart failure, access to foods that will help them manage their conditions can mean the difference between feeling well and a trip to the emergency department. Good health really does start with great food. We are excited to work with our local food banks who bring expertise and experience in providing good food to our neighbors."
Inspira will monitor the health of food farmacy customers to gauge the impact of the initiative and to provide guidance when considering changes or expansion of the program. The ultimate goal of the food farmacy program is to help patients lead healthier lives and to reduce unscheduled and emergency medical care.
For more information about Inspira Health, please visit www.InspiraHealthNetwork.org or call 1-800-INSPIRA. To stay connected with Inspira announcements and work being done in the community, please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Inspira is proud to be the Official Health Care Partner of the Philadelphia Wings professional lacrosse team.
About Inspira Health
Inspira Health is a charitable nonprofit health care organization and a regional leader in physician training, with approximately 160 medical residents and fellows in nine nationally accredited specialty programs. The system, which traces its roots to 1899, comprises three hospitals, a comprehensive cancer center, several multi-specialty health centers and a total of more than 150 access points. These include urgent care; outpatient imaging and rehabilitation; sleep medicine labs; cardiac testing facilities; digestive health and wound care centers; home care and hospice; and more than 30 primary and specialty physician practices in Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Camden and Atlantic counties.
Together with its medical staff of more than 1,300 physicians and other care providers, as well as more than 6,000 employees, Inspira Health provides evidence-based care to help each patient achieve the best possible outcome. Accredited by DNV Healthcare, the system’s clinical and support staffs are focused on providing quality care in a safe environment. For more information about Inspira Health, visit www.InspiraHealthNetwork.org or call 1-800-INSPIRA.