JERSEY SHORE — A partnership between a corporate hospital service and a local food ministry has officially launched a program designed to educate — and help feed — diabetic patients looking to get their health under control in Jersey Shore.
The Geisinger Health System has launched its Fresh Food Farmacy program with help from a local coalition of ministries focused on feeding those who need it: The New Love Center.
The Fresh Food Farmacy’s objective is to provide nutritious food and education to empower patients with the ability to make healthy decisions for their bodies, according to Alice Fox Cline, president of The New Love Center.
“With healthy food, diabetes education and support, we’re providing our patients with a special kind of medicine that doesn’t come from a bottle,” Cline said in a news release.
Food-insecure individuals with A1C levels greater than 8.0 are referred to the food pantry and are taught which food to choose and which to avoid, health coaching services, recipes and a referral to The New Love Center.
The New Love Center then grants them enough food to make ten meals a week that will support a healthy lifestyle.
“We are a group of folks who are committed to people who are food insecure,” Cline said. “We felt it was a great partnership, with the pandemic.”
Food insecurity has skyrocketed in the area since the onset of the pandemic, according to Cline. Around 20% of Clinton County’s residents and 25% of Lycoming County residences experience food insecurity–compared to the 16% to 17% of the population in Pennsylvania.
Food insecurity makes it difficult for diabetic individuals to provide themselves the most nutritious options to keep themselves healthy, according to Allison Hess, vice president of health services at Geisinger.
“You can’t manage Type 2 diabetes if you do not have access to nutritious food,” Hess said.
Over the past six months, the Fresh Food Farmacy has run a test bracket to see just how efficiently its program can help patients.
Kathleen Chilcot, of Montoursville, was one of the guinea pigs for the program — and she could not be happier with the results.
Chilcot began the program back in August, and explained her typically high blood sugar has returned to a normal rate and that she has lost 50 pounds.
“It was really helpful, having a place to pick up good (food) choices,” Chilcot said. “I want to live longer and go do more. I want to feel better about my health and feel better about my body.”
Chilcot’s story begins with a hospital scare two years ago, where her husband raced her out to the hospital for an emergency surgery because he back was hurting.
“It’s been a good program. It isn’t a matter of embarrassment, it is a matter of health,” Todd Chilcot said.
“The partnership between Geisinger and The New Love Center is exactly what the doctor ordered,” Todd Chilcot said. “It taught us how to seek proper food, and showed us proper food management.”
The New Love Center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization of volunteers from more than 30 local churches, that helps provide food to those in need, according to Dave Winkleman, vice president of The New Love Center.
“It is not just about the client but the client and their family,” Winkleman said, describing a trickle-down effect of education.
“It’s really an incredible model and if we can replicate this, it will really demonstrate how health care and community-bonded organizations can come together and help make communities healthier,” Hess said.
The New Love Center provides food at no charge through their cafe and food pantry.
The cafe is hosted in the Trinity United Methodist Church, 1407 Allegheny St., and is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Clients need only bring a form of ID to receive a free lunch.
Meanwhile, The New Love Center’s pantry, at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 229 S. Broad St., is open 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the second and fourth Friday of each month.
Area residents experiencing unexpected food insecurity can also call the center’s emergency number at (570) 772-3275.
The New Love Center accepts monetary donations online at thenewlovecenter.com/donating, and those interested can sign up to volunteer time at thenewlovecenter.com/volunteering.
Alternatively, one can reach out to 570-244-8838, or mail a check to P.O. Box 504, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.
“We’re the love Christ provides for all,” Cline said. “We see that people who are food insecure have a place to come get nutritious food.”