Franciscan Health Foundation has opened the doors to a new community resource to address food insecurity in northwest Indiana. The Fresh Start Market and Diaper Pantry in Hammond offers healthy foods, diapers, wipes, and other childcare essentials to community members in need. The new resources are part of the foundation’s phased approach, which also includes mobile markets and a food prescription program.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Franciscan Health Foundation Executive Director Rick Peltier says the programs and community resources are imperative to the region’s well-being and the health of its citizens.
Food insecurity continues to be a major problem throughout northwest Indiana and beyond. According to Peltier, 20% of children in Lake County are food insecure and 33% of families are diaper insecure.
“All of those needs can be provided here with a one stop shop in Northwest Indiana,” Peltier said. “They can shop in the market for free and in conversation, we learn more about them and their needs, and how we can provide additional help with these and other programs we offer.”
Franciscan Health Foundation Executive Director Rick Peltier explains purpose and mission of the Fresh Start Market and Diaper Pantry.
The foundation is working with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to develop and administer the resources. According to Peltier, food insecurity is so prevalent throughout northwest Indiana that it will become a medical diagnosis for electronic medical record keeping.
“A lot of times, there are medical conditions tied to it like diabetes, high cholesteral, hypertension,” said Peltier. “So then, when they get the diagnosis of food insecure, then they’re brought through the system to get the care they need for their medical condition but also food insecurity through our Fresh Start Market.”
The project’s first phase involved mobile markets, which provide food to those in need via drive-through events at Franciscan Health hospitals. Phase II, which includes the Fresh Start Market, is intended to address the underlying causes and health implications of food insecurity through education, nutrition and recipes.
Peltier says the project’s third and final phase will be a food prescription program, which will provide access to food for low-income patients and their families based on their particular health needs. Old National Bank is donating $20,000 to support the program.
According to Peltier, the resources are being funding through a combination of state funding, grants, and philanthropic support.
Earlier this year, the Indiana Department of Health allocated more than $270,000 in grants for Franciscan Health food insecurity projects in Lake County, including the Fresh Start Market, backpacks of healthy food for students in Hammond and the food prescription program. The Fresh Start Market is also supported by a $25,000 grant from the No Kid Hungry campaign.
The food pantry is open the second Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the fourth Wednesday of each month from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The foundation is part of Mishawaka-based Franciscan Health, which operates 13 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.