Published on August 12, 2021

Nash UNC Health Care to Open Food Pantry for Patients

Nash UNC Health Care is opening a food pantry for patients who struggle with food insecurity at home.

 “Twenty-three percent of the population in our service area is food insecure – that means 23% of our neighbors have limited access to food for themselves or their families,” said Kirby Slade, community development director at Nash UNC Health Care. “That’s 7% higher than the state average, and thus is a key social determinant of health we should work to address in our community.”

Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environment that affect a wide range of health outcomes and the quality of life someone may have. Social determinants can include a person’s access to nutritious foods, safe housing and neighborhoods, education and job opportunities, transportation, and air and water quality, among other things.

“There are many barriers to health that medication or healthcare alone cannot solve,” said Dr. L. Lee Isley, president and CEO of Nash UNC Health Care. “As part of our strategic plan, Nash UNC Health Care has made a commitment to address social determinants of health in our community.  Through analyzing data of our own patient population, we found food insecurity to be a major barrier to sustainable health and well-being. By collaborating with the Nash UNC Health Care Foundation and with the community’s support, we are pleased to be opening an Inpatient Food Pantry to serve our patients and to begin this important work.”

According to Nash UNC, an average of 47 patients a month are identified as having food insecurity. 

“Through Nash UNC’s food pantry, we will be able to provide tailored, disease-specific food boxes for patients who self-identify as food insecure or are referred by nursing or case management,” said Slade.

The food boxes will include shelf-stable food items, provided in partnership with the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, and recipe cards for the ingredients in the box. Nash UNC has also partnered with the American Heart Association to provide blood pressure cuffs and weight scales to monitor heart failure symptoms to patients who need them, in addition to the food box.

The hospital pantry is also partnering with Ripe Revival, a local food innovations company, to include fresh produce with the food boxes provided to patients.

The Nash UNC Health Care Foundation raised over $60,000 to get this program started.

“By taking away the question of food, our hope is that when patients are discharged they will be more likely to fill their prescriptions or acquire other necessities they would have otherwise gone without,” said Kathleen Fleming, director of the Nash UNC Health Care Foundation.  “The Foundation board has been very passionate about this cause, and saw equal support from the community when raising the funds to get this program off the ground.”

Fleming states that the food boxes are the first step to helping fight food insecurity.

“We realize that this one box is not going to permanently solve someone’s food insecurity. Along with the box they receive during discharge, we will help connect the patient to the food pantry network within our community who can continue to help with food insecurity beyond our initial food box,” said Fleming.  

The Inpatient Food Pantry is expected to open and start serving patients on August 16th.