A team of UVA Children’s providers is expanding its efforts to combat food insecurity among families it serves by opening a food pantry this month at the Battle Building, where most pediatric outpatients receive care.
The food pantry builds on a project that launched last November in partnership with the Local Food Hub’s Fresh Farmacy to provide fresh produce every other week to pediatric patients and families who lack adequate food. Now, all Battle Building patients who answer “yes” to a two-question food insecurity screening tool can access a food pantry full of healthy, non-perishable items.
“The food pantry can immediately impact families that need food now,” said UVA pediatric surgeon Jeffrey Gander, MD, who played a key role in starting the food insecurity project.
Establishing the pantry has been a team effort across the children’s hospital, Gander said. Rebecca Garrison, a patient care technician, and Megan Peacoe, a certified nurse assistant, found space inside the Battle Building to house the pantry, while two UVA pediatric nutritionists developed the pantry’s food offerings.
“Tegan Medico and Olivia Obertello looked at the nutritional needs of our patients with special dietary needs, including patients with gastrointestinal conditions and cystic fibrosis, and developed a shopping list of healthy items,” Gander said. “These items are good for kids with chronic health issues but are also good for everyone.”
Along with access to the food pantry and produce through the Fresh Farmacy, food-insecure families will also receive information about signing up for Virginia’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
A key to establishing the food pantry, Gander and his colleagues said, was a $100,000, three-year grant from Molina Healthcare, along with $3,000 in Kroger gift cards provided through Robbie Hicks, a local Kroger store manager.
Moving forward, Gander’s goal is to grow the food pantry beyond UVA Children’s to serve more patients.
“We’re hoping to expand our pantry to a larger location on Grounds so more patients can have access to food items,” he said.
Anyone interested in contributing to the food pantry can donate through the program’s fundraising site.