Even before COVID-19, food insecurity was a significant issue in Durham County, with 1 in 5 residents struggling with food security. The economic impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity for many low-income Durham residents by decreasing financial stability, job security, and safe access to public transportation. For those with chronic health conditions, the idea of getting food has become risky, scary, and uncertain. Getting food has become more complicated because of COVID-19 transmission risk, and grocery stores running out of stock on numerous food and non-food essentials.
In response, the Root Causes Fresh Produce Program has worked closely with our amazing community partners to package and deliver locally-sourced produce and shelf stable items to food insecure Duke Health patients. Since April 1st, the Root Causes Fresh Produce Program has served nutritious food to over 200 patients and their families, totaling over 7500 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables, and shelf-stable foods.
Our community partners include Farmer Foodshare, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and Duke Campus Farm. Our adult patients are referred to us by providers at the Duke Outpatient Clinic and and our pediatric patients from Duke Healthy Lifestyles Clinic. Many of these patients have multiple chronic health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to unstable food access.
We have been fortunate that our call for volunteers brought forth the energy of over 100 students from various Duke graduate schools (Medicine, Physician Assistant, Nursing, Environment, Public Policy, and Business to name a few) to help make patient calls, coordinate food sourcing, pack food bags, and make touch-free home deliveries. We are also lucky to be financially supported through existing grant funding, generous GoFundMe donations, food donations from our food partner agencies in Durham, and new Covid assistance grants from American Heart Association and the Duke Endowment in partnership with Farmer Foodshare.
In addition, we are partnering with the student-led Hotspotting Initiative at Duke Outpatient Clinic, we will also use our delivery system to bring patients non-food essentials such as hand sanitizers, soap, disinfecting wipes, sanitary pads. We are also developing a Grow-It-Yourself Home Garden Box project for pediatric patients at the Duke Healthy Lifestyles Clinic by providing pediatric families with a home-made garden box, soil, seeds, and a colorful gardening guide in both English and Spanish. We’ve delivered over 40 home garden boxes to date.