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UAB Medicine Creates Food Pantry for Transplant Patients

The partnership between the UAB Benevolent Fund and the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama continues to provide services for food insecure patients and families. The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama received the fourth annual Community Impact Grant awarded by UAB employees through the UAB Benevolent Fund. The organization provides food for financially struggling Alabama residents who are food insecure. The $25,000 grant will go toward the food bank’s partnership with the UAB School of Nursing, which fosters access to healthy foods for first-time mothers and uninsured patients with diabetes or heart failure, and also toward a food bank for transplant patients that will begin service in May.

Charlotte Beeker, Associate VP of Food and Nutrition and Guest Services for UAB Medicine, says the new food bank will be a vital part of the care this particular patient population receives.

“About 95 percent of this patient population needs assistance,” Beeker says. “We know, for example, that we have about 350 kidney transplant patients per year, and most of them have waited a long time for a match, so during that time their benefits may have run out. They may have lost their job. By the time of the transplant all their financial resources have been drained, or their entire income might derive from a disability check. All of this leads to many of our patients being food insecure. Their families may be struggling as well, especially in the IC areas, because they are staying here long term in the waiting rooms, sometimes thirty days or more. A lot of them run out of money.”

Beeker also notes that the new food bank, scheduled to begin offering services May 1, 2018, will meet specific needs of transplant patients and their families.

“The bags of food consist of prepared meals or shelf-stable meals, basically any food items that don’t call for much preparation. A patient from out of town may be staying in a hotel or at a family member’s home nearby for a week or two after transplant to have bloodwork done on a daily basis. They may have access to a microwave or small refrigerator at best, so easily prepared non-perishable items are needed.”

This newest food bank is part of the process of building a full food pantry that can offer assistance to those who qualify across all patient populations. The food pantry for transplant patients, who are referred to the program by social workers, provides enough food to last two days. Prepared meals and other food items are supplied as part of the discharge process, so that there is no gap between the time a patient leaves and has access to meals. Not only has this type of assistance, in other service areas, already helped to improve outcomes and reduce hospital encounters, but the Benevolent Fund’s partnership with the Food Bank also provides an example of generosity and innovation on the part of the UAB Medicine community.