People living in poverty and who have chronic health issues often experience food insecurity, a situation made more complicated by the ongoing pandemic.
In an attempt to bring food to this fragile population, and provide it in a setting that they frequent, the Roadrunner Food Bank’s Healthy Foods Market initiative is now available at all six First Choice Community Healthcare sites.
“The partnership is intended to give people access to free food and do it at a site they are familiar with and that they frequent because of their health issues,” said Roadrunner spokeswoman Sonya Warwick.
“It also helps reduce the number of trips that they would need to take to get multiple needs met,” something particularly important for people who want to keep travel outside their homes to a minimum to avoid exposure to COVID-19, Warwick said.
Patients who are being treated at the First Choice Community Healthcare clinics are also screened for hunger and food insecurity. If that situation is identified, the patients receive a referral for food assistance.
The food, from Roadrunner Food Bank, is delivered to the First Choice clinics every two weeks. People with a referral select the food, which is distributed in a farmers market-type of setting, with modification to allow for social distancing, Warwick said.
The food available is also heavy with fresh produce.
“It has been very valuable helping people feel a little more comfortable with different foods they aren’t necessarily used to cooking and working with,” said Dr. Jesse Barnes of the First Choice clinic in the South Valley.
Traditional New Mexican foods “don’t always include enough fruits and vegetables,” he said. “The Healthy Foods Markets help patients access food that can be more beneficial to their health right here in our clinics. It is a unique way to integrate health care services and provide access to nutritious, healthy food for our patients dealing with a multitude of complex needs.”
The partnership with First Choice began last September with three clinics participating – South Valley, South Broadway and Alamosa. Since June, it has been incorporating the other three clinics in Los Lunas, Belen and Edgewood.
Other participating clinics include the Lovelace Las Estancia clinic in the South Valley, Presbyterian Community Health Pharmacy at Kaseman Hospital, University of New Mexico Hospital North Valley clinic, and the Central New Mexico Kidney Center in Los Lunas.
Since the partnership began, more than 1,731 patient families have been reached, including 1,252 seniors, 2,835 adults and 2,030 children. From September 2019 through June 2020, more than 34,480 pounds of food has been distributed through the Healthy Foods Market initiative, Warwick said.