Thursday, August 2, 2018

Boxing Out Hunger Program Adds Fresh Produce

Beth Poates, a social worker with USA Health, hands a bag of produce to Shelia Murphy, a patient at Stanton Road Clinic.
USA Health recently expanded its Boxing Out Hunger initiative, a partnership with Feeding the Gulf Coast, to offer fresh produce to patients of Stanton Road Clinic.

The Boxing Out Hunger program, designed to improve patients' health by addressing food insecurity, kicked off in June 2017. So far, Stanton Road Clinic has distributed about 425 boxes to patients that contained an assortment of healthy, shelf-stable ingredients, such as canned produce, protein, dairy and grains.

Beth Poates, a social worker with USA Health, said patients are excited about the expansion of the program to include fresh fruits and vegetables. "Many of our patients are hypertensive or diabetic, so it's really important for them to eat nutritious food to stay well," she said. "People love fresh produce, but it can be expensive. So, our patients are really excited that they're able to get fresh fruits and vegetables through this program."

Eugenie Sellier, director of child nutrition programs with Feeding the Gulf Coast, said the bags weigh between 10 and 13 pounds and include varieties of seasonal produce, such as squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, corn and apples. "We try to give them as much variety as we can," Sellier said. "It just depends on what's in season."

Shelia Murphy, who has been a patient at Stanton Road Clinic for many years, said she is grateful for the Boxing Out Hunger program. "I've always been treated so kindly and with the utmost respect," Murphy said. "By the end of the month, I'm just barely making it. I thank God for this program. They have helped me a lot."

After picking up her bag of produce, Murphy sat down to talk with Beth Finch, SNAP outreach manager for Feeding the Gulf Coast. Finch screens patients for additional benefits for which they may be eligible, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

If the patient already receives those benefits, Finch advises him or her on ways to maximize savings. For example, Double Up Food Bucks partners with local farmers markers to double SNAP recipients' benefits, so they can purchase more fruits and vegetables. In the Mobile area, North Mobile County Food Park & Market is the participating market.

"It's a way to maximize your benefits, get fresh produce, and put money in the hands of our farmers," Finch said. "It's a win-win-win."

Poates said the Boxing Out Hunger program recently expanded to USA Family Medicine Center, starting with the nonperishable food boxes and adding the fresh produce component later.

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