Food

MaineHealth Food Pantry Moves to Larger Space – Daily Bulldog

MaineHealth team members gather to celebrate the opening of their new space.

FARMINGTON — The Franklin Community Health Network’s MaineHealth Food Pantry has received a significant upgrade, along with a $5,000 donation from Hebert Construction. The location used to be a basement storage room, but has now been converted into a large open space with cold stores, shelving and space for nutrition classes.

The pantry offers Franklin Community Health Network employees and patients access to free, healthy food. Because the pantry is located in the hospital, they only offer foods that encourage healthy eating. Patients and staff will find refrigerators and shelves stocked with produce, canned goods and shelf-stable foods where they are welcome to grab a cart and grab all the food items they need.

One of the refrigeration units used for products.

“The need for a hospital food pantry arose from an increase in food insecurity and patients lacking access to healthy food,” said LeeAnna Lavoie, director of the Healthy Community Coalition. According to Lavoie, the number of people living in poverty in Franklin County is almost 12%, and children living in poverty is almost 17%, which is higher than the state average.

“This started with the spread of food insecurity in our pediatric practices,” Lavoie said. MaineHealth identified families in need of immediate food, and in partnership with the Good Shepherd Food Bank, they provided emergency food bags that were eventually expanded to adult practices.

The pantry opened in June 2021 and has since distributed more than 30,000 pounds of food. They have also had more than 1,500 food bank visits and served more than 400 patients and healthcare team members.

Kathy Doyon of the Food as Medicine sample making program.

The majority of donations received come from the Good Shepherd Food Bank, but they also receive donations from Berry Fruit Farm, Emery Farm, Rustic Roots Farm and the local gardeners. Good Shepherd Food Bank donates to the food bank every second and fourth Friday, and Berry Fruit Farm donates once a week based on their growing season.

In addition to access to the food supply, employees and patients have access to peer support, goal setting, healthy cooking classes, recipes and menu planning with a health educator. Patients who are eighteen years of age or older and living with a chronic illness are eligible to participate in the Food as Medicine program, a free one-year program designed to help people improve their health through “nutritious diets and changes.” in lifestyle’.

“We have a lot of chronic diseases in Franklin County, across the state and across the country,” Lavoie said. “Not having access to healthy foods really impacts your health outcomes and quality of life.”

There are 26 sessions of direct education where patients learn how to prepare certain meals and how to promote a healthy lifestyle. Patients are also given ten meals a week and the recipe for one of those meals is taught in class so patients can try making it themselves at home. Every patient who enrolled in the Food as Medicine program has shown biometric improvements in their blood pressure, body fat percentages, and A1Cs.

Mancine is donating $5,000 to the Healthy Community Coalition.

Hebert Construction Project Manager Timothy Mancine handed the Healthy Community Coalition and the MaineHealth Food Pantry a $5,000 donation to fund the pantry.

“One of our greatest things as a company is that we love to give back to the communities in which we live and work,” said Mancine. “We are pleased to be able to make a donation to the food bank today, partly due to the success of our subcontractors, their efficiency and the team we work with here.”

The pantry is currently available by referral only to MaineHealth patients and primary care staff. Referred patients and staff are welcome to visit the food pantry during office hours, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome to donate to the pantry, provided the donations consist of healthy food only.

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