In an ongoing initiative to improve the health and well-being of Lower Naugatuck Valley by focusing on the social determinants of health, Griffin Health, of Derby, and TEAM, Inc., of Ansonia, organized the distribution of more than 275 cases of fresh, healthy food for area food banks and pantries on Feb. 24.
Pallets of food including fresh, refrigerated and frozen fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, eggs, soy milk, beans, fish and turkey were delivered by Cheshire-based wholesale distributor Bozzuto’s Inc. to a loading dock at Connecticut Basement Systems in Seymour as part of the community-wide effort.
“Supplying local food banks and food pantries with more nutritious food such as fresh produce, lean meat, fish, eggs, and whole grains is part of Griffin’s effort to support community based organizations that are addressing the needs of limited income families in our community,” said Griffin Health CEO and President Patrick Charmel. “These needs include employment, housing, transportation and food – that have a greater impact on health than the medical care that has been our sole focus previously.”
Volunteers from Griffin, TEAM, and Better Packages, Inc., of Ansonia, separated the items for pick-up by the Valley’s five main food banks and pantries: Spooner House in Shelton, Seymour-Oxford Food Bank in Seymour, St. Vincent De Paul in Derby, Salvation Army in Ansonia, and Christ Episcopal Church Kathleen Samela Memorial Food Bank in Ansonia.
An increasing body of research has shown the impact that social needs have on overall health, Charmel said. Only 20% of a person’s health is influenced by the medical care from doctors, hospitals, and other providers, while 80% of health is correlated to social and environmental factors.
Two years ago, Griffin and its healthcare partners in the Value Care Alliance started an initiative to better understand the need for social services that affect their communities by screening Medicare and Medicaid patients who came to their emergency departments and designated outpatient physician practices. Griffin staff screened 5,449 patients, and 1,200 (22%) reported food insecurity issues.
Griffin partnered with TEAM to address the food insecurity issue. TEAM, Inc. President David Morgan and The Valley Council for Health & Human Services’ Food Insecurity Task Force collaborated with Valley food banks and pantries and discovered that there was no standard for the types of foods the pantries accepted from donors, or a common inventory system so that food pantries could be better equipped to meet community need.
“This resulted in an oversupply of high calorie, high sugar, and high sodium foods with little redeeming nutritional value,” Morgan said. “Donations of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food options were scarce.”
Most perishable food items stocked by the food pantries were purchased from the Connecticut Food Bank with the limited funds available to the food pantries, Morgan said. Recognizing the need for food pantries in the Lower Naugatuck Valley to have better access and a more consistent stock of fresh and healthy foods, Griffin Health made a commitment to help TEAM facilitate and finance the monthly purchase of fresh, nutritious foods for the local food pantries, Additionally, Charmel has been engaging other members of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce about transforming this initiative into a model supported by business community.
“Through this collaboration with TEAM and Bozzuto’s along with the support of socially responsible companies like Basement Systems and Better Packages, we are creating an effective model for addressing food insecurity. We know this model will improve the health and wellbeing of community residents and can be easily adopted by other organizations that want to truly make a difference,” Charmel said.
Any company or organization that would like to donate food, funds or volunteers please contact David Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-736-5420.