Food Access: a Catalyst for Change

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Care AC

Stemming from a Care AC mini-grant, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey Southern Branch teamed up with AtlantiCare to open the Pantry at the Plex in Atlantic City.  This food pantry is hosted and overseen by AtlantiCare Health Engagement at the William L. Gormley AtlantiCare HealthPlex in Atlantic City.

The pantry, which provides health-conscious foods, opened in January. In the first four months of operation, more than 10,000 pounds of shelf stable food have been distributed.  During this same time period, five free “pop-up farmers markets” have been held to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables. More than 1,200 pounds of non-food items such as shampoo, soap, lotion, toothbrushes, etc. have also been collected for distribution.

The audience at the Pantry at the Plex is primarily local residents seeking healthcare services at the HealthPlex who have been assessed for food insecurity and are found in need. As such, Care AC recognizes the opportunity to connect with residents through food distribution.  Our coalition’s hope is that as residents keep their follow-up appointments, they will receive necessary medical interventions and become healthier by accessing healthy foods at the location of services. Pantry resources are minimal in Atlantic City and lack of transportation limits individuals further. With the addition of the Pantry at the Plex, the HealthPlex is now a site where patients can see their doctor, have blood work performed, receive needed prescriptions and get healthy food in one stop.

Atlantic City’s spirit and dedication can be seen by the collaboration and commitment of businesses, civic and faith-based organizations, and citizens extending a helping hand and opening their hearts to neighbors in need. An early demonstration of such kindness occurred when a community business-leader purchased a refrigerator and freezer to extend the shelf life of perishable products and enable the pantry to distribute lean meats, dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables. The refrigerator is stocked weekly.

Food can be the catalyst for change. Access to food can empower and engage residents and set the course for healthier lifestyles and improved health outcomes. We will continue to seek opportunities to connect social services through food access points.

We thank Community FoodBank for its special delivery and commitment to the Pantry at the Plex, and to those community members we serve together.

To become a partner, or to receive updates more frequently, connect with the Care AC coalition on Facebook and contact project director Samantha Kiley here.

The Grantee Blog publishes a different NJHI-supported community’s update every Monday. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.
Marcia McCulley
AtlantiCare Foundation, Care AC