Merced

ABC’s of your Health: Innovative program to combat hunger in Merced County

A sample of a weekly produce box for the Farms to Families program at 1st Quality Produce in Fresno, California on August 13, 2015. The produce company is the newest supplier of a subscription produce delivery program, known as Community Supported Agriculture. Each box contains 10-15 Californian grown produce items and costs between $22 to $29.99 depending on the quantity of boxes ordered. SILVIA FLORES/THE FRESNO BEE
A sample of a weekly produce box for the Farms to Families program at 1st Quality Produce in Fresno, California on August 13, 2015. The produce company is the newest supplier of a subscription produce delivery program, known as Community Supported Agriculture. Each box contains 10-15 Californian grown produce items and costs between $22 to $29.99 depending on the quantity of boxes ordered. SILVIA FLORES/THE FRESNO BEE sflores@fresnobee.com

When food insecurity is considered one of the leading health threats in the Central Valley, programs to help combat hunger in the Valley are always welcome.

And thanks to a $90,873 grant from the Central California Alliance for Health, Valley Children’s Healthcare and the Merced County Food Bank launched an innovative program to help families facing food insecurity in the county.

According to health advocates, one in three children in Merced County is affected by the lack of consistent access to enough food to have an active and healthy lifestyle.

“Individuals who are food insecure lack access to affordable and healthy foods which leads to adverse effects on health and development,” said Simran Kaur Valley Children’s community health specialist. “As a healthcare provider, we recognize the importance of addressing the root cause.”

Thanks to the innovative program, Valley Children’s physicians at Olivewood Pediatrics in Merced will screen all patients for food insecurity. The clinic is located near Olive Avenue and R Street in Merced and offers a wide variety of pediatric primary care services for patients, from birth to adolescence.

“Our ‘Prescription for Food’ program provides much-needed access to healthy food options for our patients and families,” said Kaur.

If a patient is found at risk for food insecurity, the patient will receive a “Prescription for Food,” a voucher redeemable for a 30-pound box of nutritious and healthy food options from the Merced County Food Bank.

“It is critically important that the community works together to address this crisis,” said Bill Gibbs, executive director for Merced County Food Bank. “Our new partnership with Valley Children’s Healthcare and the Central California Alliance for Health directly addresses childhood food insecurity, and we are very thankful to have them standing side-by-side with us in the fight against hunger in our community.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who live in households that are food insecure are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly and are hospitalized more frequently.

Grant money from the Central California Alliance for Health will help the Merced County Food Bank cover the cost of food purchases for these distributions. Central California Alliance for Health, which was established in 1996, serves Santa Cruz, Monterey and Merced counties.

The Merced County Food Bank has distributed more than 25 million pounds of food and provides food to nearly 17,000 people every month.

Patients and families will also be provided with a list of food resources and federal nutrition assistance programs available to them in Merced County.

This resource will be provided on a monthly basis to families identified as food insecure for a whole year.

The “Prescription for Food” program aims to integrate community resources into healthcare delivery to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and their families. The program’s goal is to increase access and consumption of healthy and nutritious foods.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud

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