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 2023, our WellSpan team conducted 400,000 screenings to identify more than 37,000 patients with food insecurity.
During the past three years, WellSpan has invested more than $1 million 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.
The WellSpan Market Bucks multi-tiered, food-as-medicine program includes tailored nutrition incentive resources designed to support the care and treatment of food insecure patients from select WellSpan specialty services and community partners, including WellSpan bariatric surgery, cancer centers, heart and vascular services, maternal health, population health care management; residents from the Towers at Falling Spring in Chambersburg; and Family First Health. Fruit and vegetable vouchers were distributed to 569 patients in the last year. WellSpan Market Bucks vouchers were also distributed through a pilot project with the American Heart Association aimed at increasing access to fruits and vegetables for older adults enrolled at Windy Hill on the Campus Senior Center in Spring Grove, York County. The center hosted a pop-up market 1-2 times per month, with a total of 299 vouchers used by members shopping at the market. During the most recent harvest season, Market Bucks contributed nearly $27,400 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 155 families (614 individuals) and 75 seniors in partnership with seasonal farmers markets and a local grocery store. The goal of this innovative community-based program is to address the needs of local families who are experiencing food insecurity but may not be eligible for food assistance programs. Healthy Options provides vouchers to families and offers a series of educational workshops, farm tours and classes that instill nutrition and healthy lifestyle lessons. Similarly, 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 372 families (951 individuals) benefited from this program.
Heart Healthy Cooking
Cooking healthy is an essential part of improving or maintaining overall health and managing chronic conditions. Utilizing the cooking demonstration facility at WellSpan's Heart & Vascular Center in York, dieticians and health educators are serving up ideas to people of all ages for healthy eating. Hands-on cooking with children, live cooking demonstrations for Winter STREAK, and recorded heart healthy cooking videos are all part of the variety of programming underway. Health Educators engaged 53 children (ages 6-12) in hands-on cooking demonstrations where they learned the art of food preparation for families. Participants prepped and tasted the meal and took home all the ingredients necessary to prepare that recipe at home for a family of four.
Winter STREAK continued its live cooking demonstrations by engaging 158 individuals in heart healthy demonstrations. An on-demand web-based library of recorded videos on cooking for heart health is being developed with a dozen of recipe demonstrations already produced.
Shelf-stable meals help to meet immediate needs of food-insecure patients until case management completes community-based referrals. Nearly 1,000 shelf-stable meal kits were distributed to patients upon discharge from eight hospitals and in physician offices across our entire service area.
Penn State Nutrition Links Classes – WIC Collaboration
WellSpan Community Health supported a collaboration between Penn State Nutrition Links (PSNL) and the Community Progress Council – Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program in York County. Women enrolled in the WIC program are eligible to participate in a series of free nutrition education classes to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve a healthful diet using WIC eligible foods as a resource. WellSpan provided mini electric food choppers for 40 participants.