Healthy Rowan Coalition receives NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Child Health Recognition Award

Main Street Marketplace, a Healthy Rowan Coalition member organization and pillar in the...
Main Street Marketplace, a Healthy Rowan Coalition member organization and pillar in the community addressing the intersection of hunger, health, and poverty took on the project with great enthusiasm.(Submitted photo)
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 2:43 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Child Health Recognition Awards program honored the Rowan County Health Department (RCHD) for their partnership with Main Street Marketplace in China Grove to combat childhood obesity and nutrition insecurity through a pilot mobile food pharmacy program. The RCHD was one of three health departments in the State of North Carolina to receive this award.

Overweight and obese children are more likely to continue to be overweight into adulthood and develop other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.  The challenge arises when families experience economic hardships that can lead to hunger. They may need to choose cheaper, less healthy foods to pay outstanding medical bills, rent, or transportation needs.  More than 50% of Rowan County children are living in lower-income homes, putting them at risk for nutrition insecurity and becoming overweight or obese.

Through the Health Department, the Healthy Rowan Coalition has identified nutrition insecurity as a priority area in addressing the rise in chronic disease. It’s not just about food, it is about the right food and engaging the entire family. Nutrition insecurity is the lack of food, specifically healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts, most likely due to economic hardship and knowledge around healthy eating.  “Children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if their family members are preparing and eating them at home. The same goes for most health behaviors,” says Jenn West, Healthy Rowan Lifestyle Medicine Manager.

“When designing the food pharmacy pilot program, it was extremely important to identify the right organization to take the lead. Main Street Marketplace is that organization,” says Courtney Meece, Rowan County Health Department Community Health Director.

Main Street Marketplace, a Healthy Rowan Coalition member organization and pillar in the community addressing the intersection of hunger, health, and poverty took on the project with great enthusiasm. Main Street Marketplace Director, Hope Oliphant, had a vision as she worked with board and community members to transition from a food pantry to a one of kind grocery store using a sliding scale-based model.

Everyone is welcome to shop the market in a dignified way regardless of income. The vision of our organization is to create a healthier and stronger community through relationships, education, and access to resources, fostering long-term impact. This emphasizes the importance of increasing access to healthier foods for all residents. The food pharmacy is allowing us to expand that vision through an innovate, holistic model in partnership with local healthcare facilities, the health department and Healthy Rowan Coalition, the Cooperative Extension, the YMCA and Pedal Factory.  Food Lion has also provided a monetary donation to the food pharmacy to bring more fresh produce into the homes of our families.”

Families referred to the Mobile Food Pharmacy fill their prescription one time per week by pre-ordering (3) meal kits of their choice. Meal kits include healthy recipes along with ingredients to make those recipes.  Patients pay $30 at the time of pick-up; SNAP/EBT is accepted. On average, patients in this pilot program will save 55% on meal kits compared to other local grocery stores.  Taste testing opportunities for seasonal meal kit recipes are offered at each food pharmacy pick-up and include items such as lentil vegetable soup, taco salad, and blueberry spinach smoothies. 

Patients are encouraged to attend the Living Healthy Program, a 6-week chronic disease self-management program that focuses on lifestyle education and self-care activities.  Currently, the pilot serves 10 families, all of whom, are working with food pharmacy staff to refine recipes, the delivery model, and gain insight into the health improvements made.  

Brianna Caraccio, Main Street Marketplace’s Food Pharmacy & Market Manager, shared how grateful she was to receive positive feedback from participants about the program. She shared, “One couple told us how the food pharmacy program has given them a new sense of joy within their marriage because they are now cooking together and have something to look forward to each week. Another single mom of 3 boys shared how much the program helped her provide healthy meals for her kids without having to worry about going shopping after a long day of working.”