With the help of the members of our Agency Network, we’re working on a new approach to fighting hunger in a more holistic way.
On Monday afternoons, you’ll find Josh Rockett, Outreach Coordinator at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church sorting fresh fruits and vegetables, lunch meats and other nonperishable items in the church’s grocery store getting ready for their weekly distribution.
“We have a really diverse group of people that we serve every week,” shares Josh. “They come from all walks of life and really just need a little extra help to get through the week.”
St. Stephens has been a member of Feed More’s Agency Network since 2010 and has recently joined our new initiative to help fight hunger in a more holistic way. Thanks to generous grants from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation and Sentara Healthcare & Optima Health, Feed More and VCU Health are working together to learn more about the social determinants of health – the situational and environmental factors that people grow up with, work and live in – and how those factors influence hunger.
“Our goal is to help break the cycle of hunger and poor health,” said Sydney Orgel, Feed More’s Client Resource Coordinator. “People who are food insecure are at an increased risk for chronic diseases. Thirty-three percent of those who use food pantries live with someone suffering from diabetes, and 58 percent have someone with high blood pressure.”
Patients at two of VCU Health clinics are now being screened for food insecurity and those that are identified as needing assistance receive resources including a referral to Feed More’s Hunger Hotline. From there, Feed More’s compassionate staff and volunteers help the individual get connected to a designated member of our Agency Network, like St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, for further food assistance. These agencies can also provide basic health screenings, like blood pressure and blood sugar checks, and help the individual access and apply for other benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Medicaid.
Our hope is that by having a Feed More SNAP Outreach Volunteer provide the neighbors who visit St. Stephens with access to more resources, we can better serve these individuals and provide them with a path forward to help them rise above their circumstances.
“If we can provide access to food then people can put their time and energy into more important things,” said Josh. “Like spending time with family and being productive at work, not worrying about how they are going to make it through another day without a meal.”