MCMH quartet speaks on food insecurity at hunger summit
A group of four professionals from Montgomery County Memorial Hospital were selected to give a breakout session program on “Building Partnerships through Healthcare: Paving the Way to Food Access” at the Iowa Hunger Summit.
Jamie Werges, community relations director; Christie Welter, LBSW, CLC, Clinics Navigator; Laura Kloewer, public relations and outreach coordinator, Live Well Montgomery County Chair; and Emily Furst, MS, RD, LD, Registered Dietician gave their virtual session Wednesday, Sept. 1. Theirs was one of four programs chosen out of roughly 30 applications.
Kloewer explained this is the 15th annual summit, which is affiliated with the World Food Prize.
“It focuses on hunger in Iowa, and people from all different organizations are asked to speak at it. It gathers leaders from across Iowa representing community organizations, businesses and industries, state and local government, state agencies, schools, churches, civic and social clubs and universities and individuals to confront hunger,” Kloewer explained.
She continued, MCMH’s session was about how the hospital had worked to build partnerships throughout the community to improve food access, why healthcare organizations need to have a seat at the table when talking about food insecurity and food access and the work they have done so far when it comes to food insecurity and food access in Montgomery County.
“A couple years ago, what was the population health department along with Live Well Montgomery County started really looking at food insecurity as a priority project, which really tied into the social determinants of health,” said Kloewer.
Kloewer said social determinant factors include:
• socioeconomic factors: education, job situation, family/social support, income and community safety.
• Physical environment: housing, transit, air quality, water quality
• Healthy behaviors: tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use and sexual activity.
• Access to healthcare and the quality of care.
“Montgomery County has a very poor health outcome rating, so we started looking at ways we could improve that,” Kloewer. “When you look at the data surrounding the social determinants of health, what makes up a person’s health outcome, about 20 percent of what influences a person’s health outcome happens at the doctor or at the hospital and the other 80 percent are the socio economic factors.”
“Being able to work on hunger and food insecurity in our own community is crucial to changing our neighbors health status and improving ones access to healthier food,” said Furst.
Werges and Kloewer then began building the programs; focusing on partnerships and sustainability. Montgomery County has mobile pantries, resource guides, school district support, a community garden/kids garden, mobile meals and an in clinic social determinant of health screening.
“The work being done at MCMH is pivotal,” said Welter. “We are changing the way we care for patients by ensuring we address needs to make our patients successful. This includes social determinants like food insecurity, housing, transportation and health care costs. This is caring for the whole person.”
“We have been fortunate to have laid down sustainable programming that will have a real change on hunger in Montgomery County. We hope that the increased knowledge of food insecurity in our neighborhood will help pave the way to changing the numbers of food insecurity in our county,” Furst said.
Kloewer said through their research and what has been accomplished so far in the project, there are plenty of resources out there, but southwest Iowa is under-represented
“We definitely have a need here,” said Kloewer. “It’s important for us to reach out and say, ‘hey, we have a story to tell’ and also to get people to recognize that this is an issue that affects southwest Iowa,” said Kloewer.