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  • ‘Hunger to Health:’ St. Luke’s partners with Idaho Foodbank to host community health forums
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Highlights from St. Luke’s and our community partners to improve health.

‘Hunger to Health:’ St. Luke’s partners with Idaho Foodbank to host community health forums

By Daniel Mediate, News and Community
February 4, 2020

St. Luke’s Health System and its leaders recognize the importance of supporting communities across southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. As the only Idaho-based and -governed, not-for-profit health system, we are proud to give back as we fulfill our mission to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve.

From our community health managers presenting the latest health research in public forums to the community engagement team helping to build multiagency partnerships to address chronic homelessness, St. Luke’s takes seriously the task of finding ways to improve health outside the hospital walls. This includes providing Community Health Improvement Fund grants to nonprofit organizations that are addressing significant health needs. Often, the result is great work piloted by expert-driven nonprofits in our communities, as you will see with the story below on The Idaho Foodbank.

Our team at St. Luke’s has long chronicled these stories of impact. Now, we are excited to bring readers and community members more reports of the wonderful work taking place in communities from Nampa to Twin Falls, and everywhere in between.

As we launch this new ‘Better Together’ channel, we will highlight stories about our partnerships across the health system. Readers can expect engaging, eye-opening and inspiring stories about people and organizations that are truly making a difference when it comes to community health.

Food insecurity and access to healthy foods play critical roles as social determinants of health, especially for children. Healthy food is vital to support growing and developing bodies. Without it, children often go hungry or families resort to foods with little nutritional value.

In Idaho, one in six children — nearly 70,000 — are considered ‘food insecure,’ according to The Idaho Foodbank, which distributed more than 20 million pounds of food in the past year.

Augmenting its mission to end food insecurity and increase access to healthy foods, The Idaho Foodbank has implemented a ‘Hunger to Health’ strategy, ramping up nutritional education and outreach with community partners statewide and promoting partnership between health care and food pantries, as well as screening for the social determinants of health. The Foodbank is also making sure most of the food it distributes is healthy, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

In 2019, St. Luke’s provided a Community Health Improvement Fund (CHIF) grant to The Idaho Foodbank to host ‘Community Health Forums’ with partner organizations across the St. Luke’s footprint.

Over the past six months, the Foodbank hosted forums at St. Luke’s hospitals in Boise, McCall, Meridian, Nampa and Twin Falls. The last forum took place on Dec. 10, in Meridian. More than 200 people attended the five forums, representing food pantries, health clinics, schools, faith-based organizations and more.

“With St. Luke’s financial support, plus partnership, we were able to provide the credibility and inspiration needed to inspire our partner agencies to take the first step toward promoting community health,” said Michael Shumann, senior grant administrator with The Idaho Foodbank.

Keynote speakers at the forums included Dr. SeAnne Safaii-Waite of the University of Idaho (now with St. Luke’s), Dr. Bart Ripepi of St. Luke’s Health Partners and Dr. Ted Epperly of Family Medicine Residency of Idaho.

Dr. Epperly served as the keynote at the forums in Boise and Meridian, focusing on the social determinates of health.

“Let’s face it: When you are food insecure and you have little access to food, your choices and your options automatically become more limited,” said Jackie Yarbrough, vice president of community partnerships and programs at The Idaho Foodbank. “Our goal is making sure we are sourcing and distributing healthy and nutritious food as much as possible.”

This is a key part of the organization’s ‘Hunger-to-Health’ strategy, according to Yarbrough. The Foodbank provides nutritional information and recipe ideas at food pantry sites to help educate people on healthy choices. The Foodbank’s goal is to ‘make the healthy choice the easy choice’ when it comes to food, said Yarbrough, aligning with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary recommendations.

The forums served to convene many of The Idaho Foodbank’s partners, establish a shared vision on community health and ensure best practices on collaboration, Shumann said.

“These forums intended an over-arching outcome of inspiring partner agencies to promote health through nutrition education and partnering with health care organizations, while also providing the education to get those efforts started,” Shumann added.

About The Author

Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Communications department.