Friday, November 27, 2015

Summer Feeding Program in Albuquerque Linked Hunger and Health

The Bread for the World Institute's 2016 Hunger Report, released on November 23, took the broad view of hunger as a health issue. A report published the same week by New Mexico Voices for Children examined the impact that a proposed tax on groceries would have on health and hunger in our state.

There are other local efforts underway to link hunger, nutrition and health.  First Choice Community Health Care launched a pilot program this past summer aimed at addressing child hunger as a health issue. The program, which took place June 1-August 7, was developed in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and the Bernalillo County Office of Health and Social Services.

The pilot program was put in place at the South Valley Health Commons in Albuquerque, offering any child between the ages of 1 and 18 access to a nutritious free lunch. The pre-packaged meals distributed at the Commons met USDA's nutrition standards and were prepared by APS Food Services, which has created a balanced menu that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk.

The program was the first of its kind at a primary care clinic, where pediatricians look for signs of malnutrition, including obesity.

First Choice is considering the possibility of expanding the program to its seven other locations in the metro area, as the USDA seeks places to expand its impact beyond the traditional school breakfast and lunch programs nationwide. “Hunger is a health issue in many ways,” said Dr. Will Kaufman, a local physician who specializes on nutrition and health. “Families report skipping meals and buying cheaper food to stretch their budgets, which can mean food that is high in fat, sugar and calories, and low in nutritional value.”

The children’s feeding program is one of several strategies First Choice is using to address hunger and nutrition. Patients also participate in La Cosecha Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which sells low cost bags of fresh, vegetables grown by South Valley farmers each week of the growing season, delivered to the South Valley Health Commons.

The CSA food is subsidized by Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which helped organize a summit in Albuquerque on health and hunger in May of this year, in partnership with ProMedica and The Alliance to End Hunger.  Clients also participate in the WIC program, which provides supplemental food for children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, including vouchers to spend on produce at Farmers Markets.

First Choice also helped launch a mobile farmers market that made stops throughout the South Valley and International District of Albuquerque during the summer. The mobile van, provided by Bernalillo County,  featured healthy cooking demonstrations, a mobile pantry stocked by The Storehouse and recipes.

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