Along with prescriptions and appointments for follow-up visits, patients can now leave Rex Hospital with bags of groceries to tide them over for a few days. UNC Rex Healthcare has opened the Triangle’s first hospital-based food pantry for patients who may need help eating well in the first days after going home. The pantry is managed by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and stocked with food provided by Food Lion, which contributed $125,000 to get it started.
“This pantry will help ensure those in need have access to nutritious food when they need it most,” Food Lion’s president, Meg Ham, said before a dedication ceremony Wednesday. “When they’re discharged, they can focus on their health instead of worrying about where their next meal will come from.”
Rex estimates that as many as 20 percent of the 35,000 patients admitted to the hospital each year may be “food insecure,” meaning they have trouble affording three healthy meals a day, said spokesman Alan Wolf. Before patients are discharged, their doctors, nurses and social workers talk to them about their needs at home, which now includes food, Wolf said.
The Rex pantry is down the hall from the main lobby, in a room used for heart catheterization procedures before the new heart and vascular hospital opened early last year. It is stocked with staples, such as dried and canned beans, canned fruit and vegetables, soups and cereals, as well as fresh produce, such as apples, oranges, carrots and potatoes.
Patients are given recipes and are offered the opportunity to attend cooking classes in the demonstration kitchen in Rex’s heart hospital. McGrody said education is an important part of the hospital’s food program.