Healthy foods are essential for a strong mind and body. However, many families do not have access to vital nutrition because of the conditions in which they live, learn, work and play. These conditions are defined as social determinants of health.
A common condition is food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as limited access to healthy foods and it can contribute to a variety of preventable chronic diseases and illnesses, including obesity and diabetes.
After seeing this problem in their own patient population, residents in the Long Beach Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program, developed a program that supports food-insecure families by connecting them with short-and long-term food resources. The program is supported by funding from the Community Benefit Oversight Committee (CBOC) at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, which aims to improve the health and well-being of patients, their families and the Long Beach community.
“Clinic staff identify food insecure patients by providing a brief screening questionnaire at the end of a clinic visit,” says Chris Gornes, M.D., resident, Long Beach Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program. “Patients that screen positive for food insecurity are given a range of supportive options, including groceries from the on-site food pantry and a list of local food resources, and are connected with a social worker for further assistance.”
The food pantry offers patients non-perishable items, such as pasta, beans, canned food, energy bars and granola bars. Special meals and kid-friendly snacks are provided when available. Patients that are experiencing homelessness also are given essential toiletries, like toothpaste, soap and toilet paper.
Food is provided to patients through annual CBOC funding, school food drives, staff donations and Food Finders, a locally based charity that connects organizations with donated meals.
Patients also are provided educational packets with information on social services, healthy recipes and local food bank locations. These long-term options allow families to continue receiving assistance even if they don’t have an upcoming appointment.
Since it was founded in January 2018, the food pantry has served more than 200 patients and their families.
“The most rewarding part of the food pantry program is helping our patients gain access to the food they need,” says Dr. Gornes. “As health care providers, we want to do everything we can to improve the health of our patients and community.”
The residents hope to expand their mission of delivering exceptional health care by encouraging other family medicine clinics to participate in the initiative.
To make a donation of non-perishable items this holiday season please call (562) 933-0050 to schedule a drop off time at the MemorialCare Medical Group Long Beach lobby located at 450 East Spring St., Suite 1, Long Beach, CA 90806. The clinic is accepting donations Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.