Helping Families Access Healthy Food
It's no surprise that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables helps to protect one's health. Nationally, most Americans do not eat a healthy diet and are not physically active at levels needed to maintain proper health. Fewer than one in three adults, and an even lower proportion of adolescents, eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day. We also know it can be challenging for our neighbors living in poverty to acquire affordable nutritious food they need to stay healthy. In 2022, our WellSpan team conducted 352,000 screenings to identify more than 21,200 patients with food insecurity.
During the past three years, WellSpan has invested nearly $575,000 to support our community partners in addressing hunger in all our communities. Recently, WellSpan awarded two multi-year grants to partners serving counties experiencing the greatest food insecurity gap. These initiatives will create a mobile WIC and food-centered self-sufficiency program in Lebanon as well as an innovative online food pantry order and delivery program in York that will prioritize medically compromised and chronically ill patients.
Through ongoing coalition participation and other community collaboratives, WellSpan supports programs and initiatives that benefit many families in accessing healthy food. Approximately 6,000 individuals are also served annually through WellSpan programs and partnership programs across our service area. Primary programs, not including case management referral and navigation, include:
Market Basket of the Month
This initiative provides educational resources about healthy eating to community agencies, worksites, schools and markets throughout the year. The program features a different fruit and/or vegetable each month along with resources to explore, taste and learn about the importance of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables as part of a regular diet. Last year, 11 new program partners received colorful bilingual signage to promote the featured produce.
To serve a wider audience of food-insecure patients, the “food is medicine” approach evolved into a multi-track program in 2021 that encompasses the legacy four-month Market Bucks program as well as a series of Market Bucks Lite programs tailored for Cancer Survivorship, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Maternal Health and Arches to Wellness specialty services. The program also expanded to WellSpan patients in Franklin County and to residents from the Towers at Falling Spring in Chambersburg. Fruit and vegetable vouchers were distributed to 583 patients in the last year, contributing nearly $31,100 in revenue back to local farmers and growers.
Healthy Adams Coalition's Healthy Options & Fruit and Veggie Bucks
The Healthy Options project addressed hunger for 145 families (516 individuals) and 75 seniors in partnership with seasonal farmers markets. The goal of this innovative community-based program is to address the needs of local families who are experiencing food insecurity but are not eligible for food assistance programs. Healthy Options provides "farmers market vouchers" to families and offers a series of educational workshops, farm tours and classes that instill nutrition and healthy lifestyle lessons. The goal of the Fruit and Veggie Bucks program is to enable SNAP-eligible Adams County residents to purchase additional fresh fruits and vegetables at their local Kennie’s Markets from October through May. Last year 223 families (approximately 600 individuals) benefited from this program.
Heart Healthy Cooking Demonstrations
The demonstration kitchen at the state-of-the-art WellSpan Heart & Vascular Center in York served as an ideal location for conducting two heart-healthy cooking demonstrations for Winter STREAK program participants. Taught by a dietitian from Capital Blue Cross, the demonstrations included 84 virtual participants, with an additional 115 views of the recording.
WellSpan at Monday's Market
Monday's Market partnered with the Community of Lebanon Association, REACH and Downtown Lebanon to provide a new experience at First Fridays in June, July and August. More than 100 community members were served per week. REACH has extended the scope of Monday's Market by providing local produce at the new Chestnut Street Community Center.
Community Garden Workshop
In partnership with Wilson College, a virtual workshop offered practical advice for small-scale gardening to 51 attendees.
Shelf-stable meals help to meet immediate needs of food-insecure patients until case management completes community-based referrals. More than 800 shelf-stable meal kits were distributed to patients of the Specialized Treatment and Recovery Team (START) and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) programs in York and upon discharge from eight hospitals across our entire service area.
Nourishing Minds, Bodies, Families
WellSpan York Health Foundation funding supported the enrollment of 24 families in a unique community collaborative designed to promote food security and reading among families enrolled in Community Progress Council's programs for preschool-aged children. Parents and children participated in a six-week series of interactive virtual classes led by a Penn State Nutrition Links Nutrition Advisor. To enhance participation, families received a kit containing a storybook, cooking tools and the ingredients to prepare featured recipes.