Volunteer Through Mission Corps to Fight Food Insecurity

June 25, 2020
Garden Volunteers

NHRMC Mission Corps is helping to address food insecurity in our region through several initiatives and volunteerism.

Food insecurity, the disruption of food intake or eating patterns due to lack of money and other resources, affects people of various ages.  According to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, more than 67,000 people face hunger in the four counties in the Wilmington area. According to Nourish NC, one in five children struggle with hunger in New Hanover County.

To help alleviate hunger in the community, NHRMC offers fresh vegetables and herbs through community gardens; partners with Nourish NC to provide food to children; and has launched the NHRMC Patient Food Pharmacy Program.

Providing Healthy Foods Through a Community Garden

The NHRMC Community Garden sits behind the NHRMC Heart Center – Outpatient Services building at 1415 Physicians Drive in Wilmington. It offers free vegetables, herbs and fruit to employees, patients and the community. A second Community Garden has been planted on the campus at ED North.

“The gardens feed the hungry, soothes the lonely, and bring laughter and joy to the days of many,” said Allison Weeks, a nurse with the Cardiac Rehabilitation department, and Sue Schoolfield, an exercise physiologist with the Cardiac Rehab program.  “The gardens provide fresh and healthy food options that may have otherwise been out of reach. They are assets to our NHRMC community, and we hope to see them continue to thrive.”

The gardens offer produce year-round. The Heart Center garden currently has fruit trees and 24 raised garden beds including herbs and vegetables such as kale, green beans, okra, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, squash and peppers. The garden is supported by NHRMC, Wilmington Green Community Gardens, Cape Fear Garden Club, Feast Down East, and Cape Fear Realtors.

To be notified about volunteer opportunities at the NHRMC Community Gardens, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NHRMCcommunitygarden.

Partnering with Nourish NC

NHRMC continually partners with Nourish NC to help provide healthy food to children in the community. Volunteer opportunities are scheduled for employees throughout the year to help efforts such as Nourish NC “Farmers MarKID,” where NHRMC employees can volunteer to hand out food to kids and education them about healthy food options. The Nourish NC Warehouse Packing is where volunteers sort and pack food for the weekly backpack program.

Let’s all reflect on the meaning of food insecurity as a broader concept than hunger. The true definition of security is freedom from anxiety about where your next meal will come from. Do you know the difference between hunger and food insecurity?

Nourish NC serves 1,671 kids in 51 schools in New Hanover County, and enrollment in Nourish NCs feeding program has increased by 450 kids since the onset of COVID-19. Nourish NC provided more than 125 food boxes to pediatric patients at Nunnelee Pediatric Specialty Clinics and NHRMC Coastal Family Medicine this year. With increased enrollment, Nourish NC needs support more now than ever.

NHRMC will host a food drive to support Nourish NC from July 13-17.

Providing Food Through Patient Food Pharmacy

In partnership with the Food Bank and the NHRMC Foundation, NHRMC recently started a Food Pharmacy Program to help patients with food insecurities. Patients are selected for the food pharmacy based on meeting certain criteria after a health screening by their nurse or case manager.  Eligible patients receive a voucher that can be redeemed for a meal box upon discharge.

A meal box can provide more than 20 meals for a single patient. More than 60 meal boxes have been provided to discharged inpatients, more than 75 meal boxes have been provided to NHRMC Zimmer Cancer Center patients, and as of June qualifying patients at Coastal Family Medicine became eligible for a Food Pharmacy box and a bag of fresh produce from Wilmington Green.

To find opportunities to volunteer for some of these efforts to address food insecurity and more, visit https://capslive.nhrmc.org/nhrmc-mission-corps#volunteer.