Building Equity Beyond Food￼
In expanding the Food Bank of South Jersey’s (FBSJ) presence in the communities it serves, our team began looking for opportunities beyond providing food assistance, SNAP outreach, and nutrition and cooking classes. To that end, FBSJ has been able to provide more than 100 vaccinations to individuals throughout Burlington County with support from New Jersey Health Initiatives. This has been made possible by our healthcare provider partnerships with the New Jersey Black Women Physicians Association, Burlington County Health Department, DocGo, and Cooper University Health Care.
The Food Equity team is collaborating with its existing network of food distribution sites to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine clinics. By bringing clinics to locations that are already part of community members’ daily lives, this approach helps alleviate some challenges such as limited access to transportation and time constraints.
Our healthcare partners are great in creating a convenient and stress-free environment, putting people more at ease in taking the vaccine. People are able to get their questions answered, including their questions about a cost. We have learned some community members are still unaware that the COVID-19 vaccine is free. Khanam Begum, one of FBSJ’s Community Health Workers, recalls a gentleman pulling out his wallet and asking, “How do I pay for the vaccine?” When she informed him that it was free, he smiled with a sense of relief in his eyes. Justin Huleatt, another Community Health Worker, recalls the moment a woman received her booster and her friend said with enthusiasm, “She is 100 years old!” The centenarian shared that she always got her shots and focused on seeking preventive care. It was certainly a special day.
These interactions, along with many others, show the incredible impact this opportunity has presented to communities, and for FBSJ to build equity beyond food. They provide a chance for us to learn about their needs and concerns while equipping them to make well-informed decisions about their own health and that of their loved ones.