Main Line Health aims to make food access part of the health care equation

Some food pantries say they're serving 50% more people than a year ago, a pace similar to the worst days of the pandemic.

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Thursday, August 4, 2022 5:19PM
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Main Line Health says helping patients, particularly seniors, access healthy food is part of its mission.

WYNNEWOOD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Access to adequate food is a major challenge in the United States. Food insecurity skyrocketed in early on in the pandemic, and inflation is driving it up again. Now, health care systems are making better meeting that need part of their health care mission.

"We've got collard greens, chard, looks like carrots as well," says Shonalie Roberts, as she walks through the Delma Deaver Wellness Farm at Lankenau Medical Center.

As Main Line Health's director for health equity, Roberts works to ensure patients have access to good care, including healthy food.

One effort is targeted toward seniors, many living alone and feeling isolated.

Before the pandemic, fresh produce from the Deaver Wellness Farm was offered in Lankenau Medical Center's primary care offices.

But with the switch to telehealth in 2020, things changed.

"We quickly shifted to a home delivery model to get the fresh produce from right here at our farm, as well as purchasing produce from a local food distributor," says Roberts.

Main Line Health is also asking patients at its four emergency departments a basic question: In the past year, did you either run out of food, or worry about running out of food, and not have money to buy more?

If the answer is yes, there is help.

"We're offering them a free bag of food, with two entrees, plus snacks and beverages," she says. "But a bag of food alone is not going to be enough to help them in the long-term, so we include a brochure with resources that can help them and their families."

Inflation is causing more people here, and across the country, to face food worries.

Moody's Analytics says the average American now spends $78 more a month on food.

Some food pantries say they're serving 50% more people than a year ago, a pace similar to the worst days of the pandemic.

Main Line Health connects its seniors-in-need with community food resources, such as the Why Hunger hotline, area food banks, and the hospital's Senior Care Line at 484-580-1234.

"That gets you directly connected to a Main Line Health social worker trained in the needs of seniors," she says.

Roberts says the commitment to easing food insecurity reflects a new definition of "health care."

"We have to care for the whole patient." she says.

Community Food Resources:

Main Line Health Senior Care Line - 484-580-1234

Any area:

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger - 215-430-0555, hungercoalition.org

Jewish Relief Agency - 610-660-0190, jewishrelief.org

WhyHunger Hotline - 1-800-5-HUNGRY (1-800-548-6479), whyhunger.org/find-food - Call or text your zip code to locate a local emergency food provider

Chester County:

Chester County Food Bank - 610-873-6000, chestercountyfoodbank.org

Delaware County:

Delaware County Interfaith Food Assistance Network - 610-566-7540

Montgomery County:

Ardmore Food Pantry - 610-649-1486, stmarysardmore.org/ardmore-food-pantry

Daily Bread Community Food Pantry - 610-489-5540, dailybreadcommunityfoodpantry.org

Memorial Church of God in Christ - 215-618-5504, memorialcogic.com/food-pantry

Philadelphia:

Caring for Friends - 215-464-2224, caringforfriends.org

People's Emergency Center - 267-777-5880, pec-cares.org