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In February, Katie Walker, a nurse with Sanford Children’s Clinic, reached out to community partners in hopes of helping her patients that are food insecure. Since her initial efforts in February, she has teamed up with the Healthy Klamath Coalition. In the past four months, the duo has been awarded grant funding in the amount of $12,500.

The funds from organizations such as Costco, Cigna, Sanford Foundation, and the Northwest Farm Credit Bureau will be used to create a food pantry at Sanford Children’s Clinic. With this program, patients that screen as food insecure are referred by clinic nurses and providers with a "prescription" to the pantry and offered a bag of healthy nonperishable food items and an invitation to return twice a month over the subsequent two months to help promote physical health, prevent future illness and facilitate recovery.

In addition to the food and resources received from the pantry, Sanford Children’s Clinic has become a Produce Connection site. Each week, families are invited to come to the clinic to receive fresh produce for their household and increase access to nutritious food. They estimate that around 1,500 families will benefit from their efforts.

“There have been many times we have had patients in our clinic who complained of being hungry and our staff took the time to pick something out of our own lunch or our snack drawer to feed those patients,” says Walker. “As a result, we have started a clinic-based food pantry where we can feed the minds, hearts and bellies of those kids and their families. This program will not be a fix all by any means, but it could be the bridge that family needs to get through a rough patch, and maybe we can help them get aligned with other community food programs that they may or may not already be part of.”

The project addresses nutrition related illness and under-nutrition for low-income patients and their families who are food insecure. Food insecurity is a condition in which people cannot reliably access adequate affordable and nutritious food. The complications of food insecurity are far reaching and include reductions in health outcomes and quality of life. Food insecurity has multiple dimensions, and does not necessarily mean people are suffering from hunger. It can occur from hunger or limitation of food, lack of nutritious and safe foods, abnormal eating patterns, and consumption of foods with higher counts of calories and carbs, contributing to the adverse risk of acquiring chronic health conditions.

“Nutrition and food are essential to the development of our children. As a community, we feel that we cannot ignore this basic need, and we are excited to help Katie realize her vision,” says Merritt Driscoll, Executive Director of Blue Zones Project and Co-Chair of the Healthy Klamath Coalition. “Giving people access to resources to take care of their family is one way we can help reduce hunger in Klamath County.”

Those interested in getting involved in the Healthy Klamath Coalition or learning more about the ongoing health and wellness initiatives in our community are encouraged to reach out via email to info@healthyklamath.org or visit www.healthyklamath.org.