Food insecurity is becoming a more pervasive issue across the country as well as in the Bangor community. In keeping with its Mission to provide healing care for the whole person in service to all in our communities, the team at St. Joseph Healthcare took proactive steps to address it.
Earlier this year, the Care Management team became aware of an opportunity to apply for a $25,000 grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation, a resource well-known for funding innovative efforts. They were awarded the grant and immediately used it to launch a frozen meal program.
The program works because it’s straightforward and simple. Seven freezers have been placed throughout the health system including in the hospital, emergency department and home health department as well as primary and specialty care practices. If staff becomes aware of a patient who is food insecure – which may be a single mom who is doing without to ensure her children are fed or an older individual who lives alone and is unable to get to the store to purchase food – they are sent home with a frozen meals and educated on how to access resources that can help them. Patients do not have to qualify; they are not asked for income verification. They are simply given a complete and nutritious frozen meals.
Jill Akerley is Care Team Coordinator at St. Joseph Internal Medicine. She volunteers behind the scenes to support the program by educating providers on its availability. Jill shares, “When providers are aware of this resource, they can alert us to a patient’s potential need. Usually, patients are reluctant to share they’re struggling for fear of being judged. We treat our patients with dignity by asking questions like ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘When was the last time you ate?’ A gentle approach helps us ensure someone who is hungry can open up to us. Afterall, when you give someone in need a meal, it’s universally understood as an act of care and compassion.”
Ellen Lawlor is an Administrative Coordinator for St. Joseph’s Case Management team. She supports social workers and care transition nurses and has been an employee for 39 years. Ellen volunteers by ordering meals, coordinating storage and leveraging the support of community partners.
Ellen shares, “I’ve been involved since this program began in July. It embodies everything about our Mission here at St. Joseph Healthcare. We take care of people’s minds, bodies and souls. We are there to support patients in any way we can when they need us most. Sending them home with nutritious meals gives them one less thing to worry about.”
The frozen meal program is a genuine collaboration between St. Joseph Healthcare and community partners to support the vulnerable. The meals are purchased from the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Brewer and packed for patients in freezer bags, some of which were donated by Hannaford Supermarket in Bangor.
Learn more about how St. Joseph Healthcare supports the community.