Leading the way

When most people visualize what Second Harvest Heartland does, they picture the food packed by volunteers, our vast warehouse or a Second Harvest Heartland truck heading down the road to deliver pallets of food to our agency partners. But hunger relief doesn’t only come in a food box or on a semi-truck trailer. It continues through creating new partnerships in untraditional sectors and advocating for programs and policies at the Capitol that support the people we serve.

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Hunger relief and healthcare

Imagine visiting the doctor and in addition to the usual questions about your wellness: “Do you wear a seatbelt?” or “Do you wear a helmet?,” your doctor asks, “Do you have enough to eat?” Thanks to advancing partnerships with the healthcare sector, this is now the reality at several hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, thanks to the Second Harvest Heartland FOODRx program.

It was a during a visit to the doctor, that Lisa got connected to the FOODRx program. After several years of working in the hospital system she ended up as a patient with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Already living with diabetes, the complications took Lisa out of work. Through FOODRx, Lisa was able to access a monthly box of food, specially tailored for her nutritional needs.

“The blood sugars have come down, so it definitely helped my diabetes. Having an apple versus a bag of potato chips or something does wonders, and I love it because then the kids don’t have to eat junk food all the time and it’s healthier for them.”

In it’s first full year of operation, the FOODRx program distributed 3,978 monthly food boxes tailored to support specific dietary needs, specifically diabetes and heart health to people just like Lisa. This means not only food selected for its nutritional value, but food that is also culturally appropriate.

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More than a box

Just like a school, a hospital or local clinic can be an access point to connect people to food help. Getting the food that’s appropriate for those with health issues also aids in preventing many future illnesses. Our goal is to help more patients who have very day healthcare concerns and struggle with adequate nutrition know where to turn.

Beyond the boxes of food, our partnership with the healthcare community also includes expanding support for SNAP screening, connecting to local food shelves and meal programs and finding resources for other basic needs.

Systems to support intersection of hunger and health

In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, through a grant from the State Innovation Model Program, Second Harvest Heartland built an electronic health infrastructure to connect low-income patients enrolled in Minnesota Health Care Programs to food resources.

Access to the appropriate systems in order to support data sharing between healthcare and hunger-relief sectors has been a common hurdle. With the development of this HIPPA-compliant data warehouse, we can now safely provide partners with targeted information about the populations they serve to support plans for food security intervention and measures of success in other areas.