EASTERN NIAGARA HEALTH LINES: Helping Manage Food Insecurity | Lifestyles
Hunger and unhealthy diet are not only problems facing people in distant countries. These issues are issues faced by families across the United States, including western New York State. Currently, statistics indicate that more than 40 million Americans live in food insecure households. In New York State alone, more than 2 million people go hungry. Over 600,000 of them are children.
The USDA defines “food insecurity” as a condition in which constant access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at certain times of the year. People sometimes face food insecurity due to job loss, insufficient salary, injury, illness (physical and mental), lack of access to SNAP (vouchers) food) and costs associated with unexpected hardship. Unfortunately, many people are sometimes forced to make decisions between buying food or paying for utilities, housing, medicine or other necessities.
The term food insecurity also includes inconsistent access to nutritious food for healthy living. Processed, high-fat foods (compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, etc.) are generally much cheaper to buy, but the nutritional benefits of these types are often minimal.
Poverty and food insecurity often go hand in hand. Yet families above the poverty line may still be food insecure because these people are ineligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), access to food banks and access to food. other forms of government assistance. Due to the pandemic, there are unprecedented levels of financial pressure. Every race, level of education and community is affected by food insecurity. Our community is no different.
Sometimes food insecurity is difficult to identify. Health care providers and family members may have growing concerns about their patients or loved ones who may not have the resources to obtain nutritious foods, but it is difficult to detect. Sometimes coping strategies associated with food insecurity include skipping meals or relying on low-cost, high-calorie, low-nutrient fast foods routinely.
Last week, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County, in conjunction with the SNAP-Ed program, announced their new Farmacy program. Farmacy, a product prescription program, will help connect local residents and patients with affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables, food access resources, and nutrition education. In partnership with Eastern Niagara Hospital, this program is publicly promoted throughout the community.
Those interested in participating in the program will be invited to attend weekly nutrition education workshops, at Eastern Niagara Hospital or via Zoom at another time. After each workshop, participants will receive a free voucher for Veggie Van products.
The Farmacy program was designed to help bridge the gaps between community resources. Support is also provided in other ways, such as increasing comfort levels with nutritious meal preparation, meal planning, or budgeting strategies. Access to the Veggie Van complements the Farmacy program, as it serves as a mobile farmers market, bringing local produce to the underserved population of the community. Eating local, seasonal produce is a delicious and healthy way for families to meet their nutritional needs.
No adult or child in our community should ever go to bed hungry. All families should have access to a variety of fresh, healthy and nutritious foods. If you need help or know someone who could benefit from the Farmacy program at Eastern Niagara Hospital, please call (716) 433-8839, ext 238, or email [email protected] for more information.
Maralyn Militello, MPA, BSN, RN, CPHQ, NEA-BC, is the Head Nurse at Eastern Niagara Hospital. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature of the Community Relations Department of the Eastern Niagara Health System. For more information, call (716) 514-5505.