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By Mark Kimmel, UNC Health Foundation

An overwhelming sense of gratitude filled UNC Health teammates as the delivery truck pulled up to the loading dock at UNC Hospitals.

Shannon Hinton and the local Chapel Hill Wegmans “delivery team” wasted no time. Over 900 pounds of food were unloaded in a flash, filling the food shelves thanks to a helping hand from the assembled healthcare workers, all of whom volunteer for the UNC Health program, FoodWell.

UNC Health partnered with Wegmans and Tar Heel Sports Properties in March to support the FoodWell initiative to combat food insecurity.

“It was such a feel-good moment for all,” said Eli Jordfald, UNC Health Foundation’s Executive Director for Healthcare Philanthropy. “Coordinating this food drive with the Wegmans corporate office, the local store employees and Tar Heel Sports Properties has been such a joy. We are grateful for everyone’s involvement”.

UNC Health FoodWell is an interdisciplinary supplemental health and well-being program, designed to address the immediate needs of patients and families facing food insecurity. Lack of access to food and other nutritional resources has devastating effects on overall health and well-being, and UNC Health FoodWell was established to provide support for vulnerable patients and their families at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough as well as several outpatient clinics in the Triangle area. To date, FoodWell has supported over 3,000 families since its launch.

Filling the Pantry, Filling a Need

Wegmans’ national initiative “Fill the Pantry” bolsters UNC Health in its goal to support patients who are struggling with food insecurity. The pandemic exacerbated this problem and continues to be a serious issue for patients in North Carolina.

The Wegmans Chapel Hill store buzzed with activity during the month of March. Thanks to in-store and digital promotions, customers generously donated non-perishable food items. In addition, Wegmans is matching these customer contributions with a monetary gift to support FoodWell.

“We are so humbled at how generous our customers are in their community,” said Wendy Ronhovdee, Wegmans Marketing Manager for Sports and Community Partnerships. “It’s always nice to see how our initiatives make a difference and impact the communities we serve.”

Food Insecurity

Millions of Americans struggle with food insecurity and face limited access to affordable, nutritious food. This challenge becomes even more significant for those battling illness. It can become a vicious cycle: poor health makes it harder to get food, and food insecurity hinders recovery.

“We are incredibly grateful for Wegmans support,” said Tracy J. Carroll, MSN, RN, Executive Director, Patient Experience and Employee Engagement at UNC Health. “Something as basic as food should not be a limited resource – but it is for many.”

The “Fill the Pantry” food drive exemplifies UNC Health’s Carolina Care value – to care holistically about patients and each other, and to serve the people of North Carolina with kindness and compassion.

“We’re not just talking about a concern, but doing something tangible about it,” Carroll said. “Huge thanks to our teammates who make this happen every day.”

Streamlining Patient Support

FoodWell prioritizes ease of access for patients. Healthcare professionals identify patients experiencing food insecurity through simple screening questions. Once identified, the program steps in to ensure patients receive immediate aid with minimal hassle that includes 2-3 days’ worth of food for each family.

The UNC Health FoodWell program stands as a beacon of collaboration and compassion. By tackling food insecurity, FoodWell not only improves patient well-being but strengthens the community through partnerships that prioritize health for all. As the program grows and gains support, it can pave the way for other healthcare institutions to create a more food-secure future for their patients.

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