JEFFERSON-When even the Governor sits up and takes notice of what you have to say, you can be sure your message carries weight.
Ashe Memorial Hospital leaders were given the opportunity last week to offer their take on the state of healthcare in the High Country for members of the North Carolina General Assembly, healthcare leaders statewide and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.
The meetings also included sessions with Rep. Jonathan Jordan and the district’s new state Senator Deanna Ballard who was picked by GOP leaders to replace former Sen. Dan Soucek following his resignation.
But the conference also allowed AMH to fill state leaders in on the hospital’s new food pantry pilot program.
“We felt very honored to be invited to do that, to have that opportunity,” Lambeth said following the meeting.
In December, AMH partnered with the Ashe Sharing Center and Second Harvest Food Bank to launch what might be the region’s first hospital based food pantry.
While it might seem counterintuitive to establish a food pantry at a hospital, Lambeth called AMH earlier this year an ideal location for such a project. Since the hospital’s patient base includes people from all walks of life, Lambeth said the hospital is in a unique position to screen for and help people in need.
During the hospital admission process, patients are asked two questions: are they worried about where their next meal is going to come from and if the patient is worried about running out of food before they have money to buy more.
Those who meet the criteria are then given a box of food that’s custom built to tide them over until they can find more food.
And with more than 4,600 people in Ashe County considered “food insecure” at any given time – the most recent statistics were generated from data gathered in 2013 – it’s hard to miss Lambeth’s point. Roughly 1 in 6 adults, or about 17 percent, worry at some level how they’re going to feed themselves or their family at some point in the future.
Since it opened little more than six months ago, nearly 140 food boxes have been distributed to patients and their families, according to Melissa Lewis, the pantry program’s coordinator.
But it’s the simple idea and execution behind the pantry itself that Lambeth and company were excited to highlight for state leaders last week.
By partnering with a reputable charity like Second Harvest and the Ashe Sharing Center, hospital leaders don’t have to worry about taking on the heavy lifting that comes with raising funds for and collecting food donations.
AMH can essentially allow those outside groups to focus on doing what they do best, while the hospital provides a high-traffic, high-impact location to actually distribute food to people who need it.
At the end of the day, you might see it as an efficient way of making sure hungry people get the food they need.
“That’s what we’re excited about, the fact that other hospitals can fill a need similar to this in their own communities,” Lewis said. “And really, this doesn’t even have to be hospitals that take this on. It’s a simple system that we think could work well in a lot of places.”
And Lambeth and her team were also given the chance to share that same message with other hospitals and health care providers during the meetings.
“There are a lot of rural areas all across the state, places that could really benefit from a program similar to this,” Lambeth said. “And we heard a lot of good feedback from people who were genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing this back to their own communities. We hope this model spreads everywhere.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.