Mercy Hospital, Food Bank of WNY and Catholic Charities have joined forces on a new "Mobile" Food Pantry at the Mercy Comprehensive Care Center located at 397 Louisiana St. in Buffalo's Old First Ward. The free service delivers thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to nearly 500 adults and children on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Serving as an offshoot of the nearby Catholic Charities Food Pantry, the Mobile Food Pantry is the first health care based distribution site for the Food Bank in the region.
"We are pleased to be part of this collaborative effort with the Food Bank and Catholic Charities to help create a healthier community," said Mercy Hospital President and CEO C.J. Urlaub. "Residents have access to healthier foods plus they can take advantage of a wide variety of health services and wellness programs offered at the Mercy Comprehensive Care Center."
The community surrounding the MCCC is known as a food desert, a low-income area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. "A nutritious diet is critical to maintaining good health and preventing disease," said Elyse Burgher, Agency & Community Programs manager for the Food Bank. "Unfortunately, many of our neighbors lack access to the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives. Through this new partnership, we can help ensure nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, get into the hands and homes of those who need them most."
In addition to providing staples for healthy meal planning, the Mobile Food Pantry also offers healthy recipe ideas and food tasting, as well as the opportunity to join the MCCC's free community wellness program Heart Smart for Life. As part of the Heart Smart program, participants receive one-on-one nutritional counseling and education, plus "healthy" cooking classes conducted by a professional nutritionist. The wellness program also offers free health screenings, wellness education and exercise classes, and other resources focused on improving cardiovascular health.
Catholic Charities is also proud to be part of this coalition to help this neighborhood. "This is a great collaboration between the Catholic Health System, Food Bank of WNY and Catholic Charities to be able to provide fresh, healthy food for those in need," said Bill Larsen, Catholic Charities outreach coordinator. "We're so happy to be able to serve the community in this unique way."
The Heart Smart for Life program is a community wellness initiative that launched in January 2017 with support from the Mercy Hospital Foundation and a generous $165,000 grant from the AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM. Key Bank and Fidelis Care are also partners in this program with a goal to positively impact the health of our community.