A $25,000 donation from Amerigroup to the University of Mississippi Medical Center will help establish the state’s first Food Rx program for children at Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only dedicated children’s hospital. Ryland Dean Unsplash
A $25,000 donation from Amerigroup to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) will help establish the state’s first Food Rx program for children at Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only dedicated children’s hospital. Through this partnership with the Mississippi Food Network, Children’s of Mississippi pediatricians and specialists will screen for food insecurity and prescribe fresh, nutritious foods that have been proven to improve children’s development, mental health, educational performance and long-term health outcomes. Food prescriptions will then be picked up from the UMMC EversCare food pantry, which is housed at the Jackson Medical Mall and is a program of the UMMC John D. Bower School of Population Health.
“ Food insecurity is the most commonly reported unmet social need in the U.S. that impacts more than 42 million people and over 13 million children across our nation,” said Tara Clark, who leads Amerigroup Mississippi. “Here in our home state of Mississippi, we have one of the worst hunger problems in America with almost one in four Mississippians not having enough to eat. Just in Jackson alone, 29 percent of children are food insecure. This puts their futures at risk, and that’s why we are grateful to Mississippi Food Network, UMMC and Children’s of Mississippi clinicians for joining us to launch the state’s first pediatric Food Rx program to improve health and lives.”
In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement recommending that pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity. By making a food pharmacy available, Children’s of Mississippi pediatricians and specialists can enhance health outcomes, by not only recommending food as medicine, but also helping families access the foods they need to follow through with doctor’s orders. The UMMC EversCare food pantry will use Amerigroup funding and Mississippi Food Network support to stock the foods needed to help doctors and families fight childhood obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, chronic diseases and more.
“Childhood food insecurity is associated with poor health status, developmental risks, mental health issues and poor educational outcomes, so it is critical that we intervene as early as we can,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of pediatrics. “In a state where we see some of our nation’s highest rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and hypertension, we must do more to improve health behaviors and outcomes. Establishing our state’s first pediatric Food Rx program, is a tremendous step in building better futures, and we can’t thank Amerigroup and Mississippi Food Network enough for leading this initiative.”
Children’s of Mississippi is the pediatric arm of UMMC. It includes the state’s only dedicated children’s hospital and offers pediatric clinics statewide. It offers access to more than 150 pediatricians and pediatric specialists who cover more than 30 medical specialties. Jackson-area clinicians who identify a patient’s nutritional needs will customize food prescriptions that address health conditions. When families fill these prescriptions at the EversCare food pantry, they will also have the opportunity to learn more about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC), as well as community resources to assist with housing, utilities, transportation, education and employment.
The Mississippi Food Network has been feeding Mississippians since 1984 and distributes more than 1.5 million pounds of food to more than 150,000 individuals each month.
The new pediatric food pharmacy will be located in the Jackson Medical Mall and will operate in tandem with the current EversCare food pantry. Also in the Jackson Medical Mall is the recently launched Amerigroup Community Wellness Center, which offers information about access to healthcare and free community resources. For more information, families can contact the EversCare Clinic, speak with their Children’s of Mississippi clinicians or stop by the Amerigroup Community Wellness Center.