In 2013, the food bank launched a hospital-based NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) food pantry serving mothers and family members with children enduring long hospital stays in the NICU. We are currently partnering with two hospitals, UAB Hospital and Coosa Valley in Talladega County. These pantries are stocked with specific items—like tuna salad, peanut butter, high-protein, easy-to-prepare meals, pretzels, nuts and protein bars —to benefit breast-feeding mothers.
Providing an on-site pantry provides an innovative platform to increase food access for those in need and it also enables mothers to spend more time with their infants during a critical time of mother-child bonding. The idea to begin a hospital pantry was created after NICU nurses noticed some mothers never left the ward to eat (or couldn’t afford the hospital meals) and many were afraid to leave their children or ask for help. Patients are referred to the pantry by medical professionals and onsite social workers who recognize symptoms of food insecurity.
But this was only the beginning of our partnership with healthcare providers! We are now in 6 clinics across UAB’s campus including the Acute Care for the Elderly geriatrics clinic, the PATH Diabetes Clinic, Heart Failure Clinic, and the Nurse-Family Partnership for first-time mothers on WIC. Community Food Bank is making the healthy choice the easy and accessible choice by providing clinicians with nutritious food that they can prescribe right then.