Cleveland Clinic Akron General opened a food pantry today to better serve patients who are experiencing food insecurity. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the pantry located on the first floor of the hospital.
In its first phase, the pantry will provide food to patients of the hospital’s Center for Family Medicine who answer affirmatively to one of two questions on the Hunger Vital Sign™ screening tool. The questions ask if the person has been worried about their ability to buy food in the past 12 months or if they ran out of food and didn’t have money to buy more in the past 12 months.
Funding for this program was secured by State Rep. Emilia Sykes through an Ohio Department of Medicaid grant to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, in collaboration with local hospital systems. The purpose of the grant is to support food-insecure patients with chronic disease and their families who live in Summit County.
“We offer our sincere thanks and appreciation to Rep. Sykes for bringing this project to fruition. It shows her deep commitment to serving the community and her constituents,” said Brian Harte, M.D., President of Akron General. “Having access to sufficient amounts of food is essential to a person being able to experience good health, and this initiative will help many patients achieve that goal.”
Once a patient has accessed services through the pantry, they are able to return as often as they need. No fee will ever be charged. The goal is to expand the program to help more outpatients as well as inpatients who are being discharged to home, said Claire Loose, manager of nutrition therapy at the hospital.
”Food insecurity continues to plague our community, and the health and well-being of our friends and neighbors. I am proud to have secured these funds to support the food pantry at Cleveland Clinic Akron General that will provide much-needed resources to their patients,” said Rep. Sykes. “I am grateful for the collaboration of Akron General and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, who stepped up for our community to reduce hunger and promote health.”
Dr. Harte was joined by Rep. Sykes and Dan Flowers, CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, to officially open the center.
The food, being provided by the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, will primarily consist of non-perishable items although other items will be offered as available. The pantry is being staffed by Morgan Stocker, a recent graduate of the University of Akron who has experience with other pantries in the area. She will make diet suggestions based on chronic disease and other health information as provided by patients’ physicians. She will also work closely with the medical practice’s social worker to help address patients’ other social needs.
The pantry will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday starting next week. The staff expects to serve 15 to 20 families a week in the initial phase.