Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County is excited to announce a $197,000 grant from the Central California Alliance for Health Healthy Food Access Program to expand food insecurity screening for Dignity Health Mobile Wellness Van, Dignity Health Dominican Hospital, and Dientes Community Dental Beach Flats Clinic to screen patients for food insecurity using the Hunger Vital Sign™. Patients who screen positive will receive a Nutrition Prescription to call the Second Harvest Community Food Hotline for a referral to a Passion For Produce or Food For Children program site and be prescreened for CalFresh eligibility. Patients can redeem their prescription at a program site to pick up their $50-75/value of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy staples, receive a one-time $20 Grocery Outlet gift card, and attend a nutrition class. Poverty and food insecurity lead to poor health outcomes, especially obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. According to Feeding America, identification of food insecurity and referral to appropriate nutrition services can help to treat and prevent illness, support patients in chronic disease management and promote wellbeing. It is an inexpensive and non-invasive treatment with the fewest side effects for patients. Second Harvest and its clinical partners will encourage participation in the Nutrition Prescription Program for those afraid of accessing safety net services due to their legal status or ashamed of the sigma food assistance with the message that Second Harvest provides safe and respectful nutrition services.
“With the high cost of housing, the political instability, and the high rate of poverty in Santa Cruz County, we believe it is more critical than ever to find creative ways of reaching new participants and ensuring that they have access to healthy food to thrive. This program will help us to do just that by leveraging our relationships with Dignity Health and Dientes Community Dental, who have agreed to hand out Nutrition Prescriptions to patients that screen positive for food insecurity. We couldn’t be more thrilled with their participation in this new program,” states Sarah Underwood, Senior Director of Health and Nutrition at Second Harvest. The Alliance’s Partners for Healthy Food Access Program supports innovative partnerships between health care providers, community-based organizations and/or government agencies to decrease food insecurity in the Medi-Cal population in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Merced counties.