Saint Agnes Hospital announced Tuesday that it received a $10,000 grant from the Greater Chesapeake Charitable Foundation to support its goal of connecting patients and other vulnerable populations, particularly those who live in food deserts, gain access to healthy and affordable produce.
The grant money will provide free produce from Hungry Harvest, an organization that seeks to reduce food waste by selling surplus or “ugly” produce. Some of the money will also fund the hospital’s participation with Movable Feast and Meals on Wheels, programs that provide fully and partially prepared meals to homebound patients and others in need.
Jennifer Broaddus, director of population health at the Saint Agnes Health Institute, said she’s seen cancer patients “stabilize” and improve when they’re given access to prepared, healthy meals. Her goal now is to expand the reach of produce and healthy food to “food insecure areas that surround southwest Baltimore,” she said.
“It’s becoming increasingly more apparent that lack of access to healthy nutritious meals has negative effects on patient’s health,” Broaddus said.
With the grant, Saint Agnes will be able to give 40 patients vouchers that can be exchanged for bags of fresh produce sold through Hungry Harvest’s “Produce in a SNAP” program, said Broaddus.
The program, named because customers can use cash, credit or EBT, exists at other local institutions, like the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, and sells $7 bag of produce — a cost that is usually half what one could expect to see in a grocery store.
Since June, Hungry Harvest has brought the program to Saint Agnes Hospital’s Community Produce Market, where it has sold over 20,000 pounds of produce to 581 customers, including patients, hospital staff and the surrounding community, said Will McCabe, food access manager for Hungry Harvest.
The grant will also allow Saint Agnes to purchase food delivery through Hungry Harvest for 20 patients who are unable to make it to the market, be it because of illness or disability, Broaddus said. Meals on Wheels and Movable Feast will reach about 16 more patients because of the grant money, she said.
Hungry Harvest already provides its produce delivery service through medical institutions and doctors, called “Harvest RX,” to about 6,000 patients in the Baltimore-Washington area, according to Stacy Carroll, director of sales and partnerships for the company.