Pediatrician Dr. Suzette Oyeku prides herself on helping kids thrive. When she noticed a rise in unmet social needs among her patients, she began exploring innovative and practical ways to assist their families.
“We’re seeing a lot of the impacts of poverty show up in our exam rooms, and one of those is not having sufficient money for food,” said Oyeku, chief of the division of academic general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York.
The Bronx-based hospital has found that 1 in 3 of its patients are living in households lacking access to adequate nutritious foods due to financial barriers. With Oyeku’s help, the hospital launched a partnership this month to help bring healthy foods to kitchen tables with nonprofit About Fresh and grocer Stop & Shop, which provided a $75,000 grant to fund the collaboration.
The hospital is testing Boston-based About Fresh’s “Fresh Connect” program, through which eligible families receive a prepaid debit card to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at Stop & Shop and other grocery stores in About Fresh's network. The cards are reloaded with $100 each month. The program allows organizations to track transactions and tie data back to electronic health records to measure Fresh Connect’s impact on health outcomes over time.
“Despite how important food is to our health outcomes, it is not integrated into healthcare systems,” said Josh Trautwein, co-founder and CEO of About Fresh.
Patients at the children’s hospital who screen positive as food insecure are referred to a community health worker, who connects the family with the nonprofit.