Flexibility Helps Nutrition Center Meet Most Pressing Community Needs

Cornerstone News

In 2021, St. Mary’s Health System received a grant of $100,000 from Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare Foundation, now Point32Health for an innovative health and nutrition project. This grant was a
collaboration between St. Mary’s Nutrition Center and 2023 Community Clinical Services (CCS) B-Street Health Center to address the social determinants of health and provide a continuum of care for patients with chronic illness facing multiple social barriers by providing culturally appropriate food.

During the initial stage of the project, our community’s needs suddenly changed. Lewiston-Auburn saw a considerable increase in asylum seekers arriving, largely from Afghanistan, without any coordinated support structures in place. This exacerbated a food scarcity crisis. With the support of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Foundation and our partners, we quickly pivoted to meet these new, urgent needs.

Throughout 2022, a new program was implemented that focused on coordinating an emergency food response that provided culturally preferred foods; supporting families in learning to navigate access to health care, food access resources, and public transportation; and addressing related barriers such as the kitchen equipment needed to be able to prepare foods. This provided support to extremely vulnerable families as they navigated a challenging transition window in their first six to 10 months in the United States. Simultaneously, the Nutrition Center, CCS, and other community partners identified the collective work that needed to be done to create a sustained, coordinated response plan as more refugees and asylum seekers arrived each week.

Flexible partnerships and, when possible, unrestricted support, help St. Mary’s respond quickly to emerging needs in our community. To learn more about the Nutrition Center or to make a gift, visit our website at stmarysmaine.com.

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