Bethel Daily Bread, a newly opened community health hub and food pantry on Chicago’s West Side, is demonstrating how innovative partnerships and technology can address both the medical needs of community residents and the unmet social needs that cause them.
Residents from the Austin and Humboldt Park neighborhoods who are referred by one of several nearby community-based organizations to Bethel New Life’s existing food pantry to address food insecurity issues will now also meet with a RUSH community health worker. RUSH will work with residents to determine what other challenges they might be facing — such has transportation or employment — and then connect them to the organizations that can assist.
“Food is medicine,” said Julia Bassett, system manager for health and community benefits at RUSH. “Access to nutritious, fresh food is part of the equation for staying healthy for everyone, but especially those dealing with manageable conditions like diabetes and heart disease that shorten thousands of West Side lives.”
Tapping into community resources
Addressing food insecurity can be the first step to improving long-term health, Bassett said. “Medical science tells us that non-medical challenges contribute to poor outcomes more than people’s behavior or biology,” she said.
On-site community health workers who are assisting in selecting the right food for recipients and their families are also able to tap into a community resources referral network of local organizations. In addition to making people aware of resources, they can secure referrals with organizations that can help them engage with job training programs, enroll them in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, arrange appointments with mental health providers and other forms of support.
“We are not just giving people food. We are engaging, person by person, with personalized series of resources, skills and education opportunities to be able to support a lifetime of learning, growth and health,” said Rukiya Curvey-Johnson, vice president of community health equity and engagement at RUSH.
Amazon delivers funding for new approach
This holistic approach also includes a new RUSH corporate partner. Amazon and Amazon Fresh have provided the funding to create and sustain Bethel Daily Bread for several years.
“Amazon Fresh is excited to be a part of an innovative approach to support families for long term health and wellness embedded in a trusted community partner,” said Sarah Glavin, head of community engagement at Amazon in Chicago. “The Bethel Daily Bread Wellness Hub Pantry is a unique resource that goes beyond meeting families’ immediate needs. The pantry invites guests into a welcoming space staffed by a community health worker who can support them through a wide range of services, from SNAP registration to mental health referrals, guided by RUSH University Medical Center’s best practices. We know this will be a real asset for the community.”
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