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UVMHN – Elizabethtown Community Hospital secures healthy food for its community

Food insecurity and nutrition disparities stubbornly continue in many populations across New York state, exacerbating rates of diabetes, obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. In an effort to improve healthy food access in its community, Essex County Health department, in close collaboration with The University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital, created the Well Fed Collaborative, an innovative approach to food access. 

UVMHN – Elizabethtown Community Hospital implemented an effective screen for food insecurity. Once a disparity is identified, patients are supported through a referral process and connected with community resources to address barriers and determinants of food access and affordability. The initiative works collaboratively to connect people in need with the appropriate resources, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

It also provides referrals to programs such as Wellness RX and food pantries, works with local farms, increases consumption of fruits and vegetables and addresses food insecurity that has an adverse impact on the health of the population.

Wellness RX and food pantry co-location is intended to increase access to local, wholesome foods and goods, increase provider referrals to wholesome nutrition and food security and reduce the stigma associated with food pantry use. Team communication and role specifications were essential during implementation of Wellness RX into the health centers and community. Monthly meetings allowed for timely correspondence and decision making.

A total of 51 referrals have been made to the Wellness RX program, with 253 vouchers redeemed, totaling $2,795 in produce purchased. Hosting a pantry in a health center greatly reduced the stigma surrounding utilization. After three months of operation, 83 families have accessed more than 3,980 pounds of food.

For more information, contact Amanda Whisher, primary care data quality specialist, at awhisher@ech.org or (518) 873-3125.