AUBURN, Maine – Good Shepherd Food Bank would like to congratulate its partner, New England Cancer Specialist, on being recognized as one of the 2019 Association of Community Cancer Centers’ Innovators. The ACCC Innovator Awards honor Cancer Program Members for their ingenuity and pioneering achievements in oncology.
“When the staff at New England Cancer Specialists discovered our patients were battling food insecurity, the practice initiated a partnership with Maine’s Good Shepherd Food Bank,” stated Steven D’Amato, BSPharm, executive director at New England Cancer Specialists. “Now, if we identify patients as food insecure, we direct them to our pharmacy, where we keep emergency packs of non-perishable food.”
Nearly 200,000 Mainers lack regular access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. Food insecure individuals may be forced to employ coping mechanisms that adversely affect their health, including skipping meals, reliance on fast food, eating inexpensive, less nutritious meals, and choosing between food and medication. Food insecurity also increases risks of developing chronic diseases, like heart disease and type II diabetes, among others. Moreover, costly treatments and medication after a diagnosis can cause financial strain that results in or perpetuates food insecurity.
“Our Community Health and Hunger Program addresses the issue of nutrition and health in low-income families by seeking to increase the integration of health care and emergency food delivery to low-income and food-insecure Mainers,” said Laura Vinal, the program’s manager at Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We build partnerships between the Food Bank and health care organizations, so together, we may better identify and remove barriers for Mainers who lack access to enough nutritious food to live healthy lives or recover from illness.”
Good Shepherd Food Bank provides training to health care partners interested in implementing the Hunger Vital Signs™ Food Insecurity Screening questions as part of routine patient visits. The Food Bank can also provide health care partners with nutritious grocery items in the form of pre-packed emergency food bags for direct and immediate distribution to those who identify as food insecure. These bags, purchased by the healthcare center and provided to patients at no cost, can provide 2-3 days of nutritious shelf-stable food to patients struggling to manage a chronic illness. The Food Bank also offers fresh, local produce for health care partners to distribute to patients through a partnership with its Mainers Feeding Mainers Program. Each health care partner is provided with a list of local emergency food access points, like food pantries, to which patients that screen positive for food insecurity can be referred. The Food Bank works closely with food pantries to ensure that they can successfully support referrals from the health care partner.
Representatives from New England Cancer Specialists will be attending the awards ceremony in Orlando, FL, on October 30, 2019.
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