More than 50 years ago, Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a co-founder of the Community Health Center Movement, helped create a food co-op program in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Part of his mission was to ensure people would both have access to food and be invested in their own food security. Despite this early effort, food insecurity – difficulty accessing affordable, nutritious food – is still an issue. The good news is there are many health centers dedicated to the mission of bringing healthy foods to people in need. They are health centers like Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (featured in our first podcast) and Native Health, in Phoenix, Arizona, which are coming up with innovative ways to address the problem.
For the second podcast in our three-part series on food insecurity NACHC spoke with Susan Levy, Communications and Community Relations Director at Native Health. Native Health is unique because of the primarily urban Native American population that it serves. According to the 2015 U.S. census, 28.3 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives were living in poverty in the United States in 2014.
Native Health’s food insecurity efforts began about 5 years ago when the health center partnered with a local food bank to take part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program, a program that makes sure low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals even when school is out for the summer.
Native Health now oversees several food insecurity programs including but not limited to an after school meal program, a weekly read-it-and-eat program (which also addresses literacy), a program to teach children healthy lifestyle lessons, a traditional native garden with indigenous plants, nutrition and growing classes, and a “sharing basket” that is offered in the health center’s lobby.