ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Thanks to an innovative partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Region, children visiting the hospital can now enjoy a free, nutritious meal at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis and Socorro General Hospital in Socorro.
The three Presbyterian hospitals participating in the pilot program, which started February 1, 2016, are the first hospitals in New Mexico to offer free meals for children. Presbyterian is partnering with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Region and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department on the project. The USDA operates the federally-funded, state-administered Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) during the school year and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) during the summer to serve healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas at no charge.
In 2013, the USDA started child feeding programs at hospitals in Arkansas and Oklahoma in an effort to reach more children across the country. The USDA now feeds more than 163 million children during the summer and more than 936 million through a combination of school food and other sites during the school year. There are six healthcare facilities serving as meal sites throughout the Southwest.
“Recent studies have shown there is a direct correlation between food insecurity and its association with poor health, “said Bill Ludwig, Food and Nutrition Service Southwest regional administrator. “Therefore, it’s important we partner with the medical community so we can work together in the fight against hunger. We believe these programs are another step in the right direction to providing nutritious meals to children in New Mexico.”
In New Mexico, one in six residents struggles with hunger and the state ties with Mississippi for the highest childhood hunger rate in the nation, according to Feeding America.
“We are honored to partner with USDA and CYFD to provide free meals to New Mexico children,” said Kathy Davis, RN, Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer, Presbyterian Healthcare Services. “As a not-for-profit healthcare system that has cared for our community since 1908, we think it is our responsibility to work with local and national partners to help solve the problem of hunger in our state. We cannot expect good health outcomes if our children do not have nutritious food to eat. Now, when children visit loved ones in the hospital they won’t have to worry about missing a meal.”
Presbyterian is deeply engaged in hunger and health issues. In 2012, Presbyterian participated in a community needs assessment and determined that the biggest areas of need in New Mexico were Healthy Eating, Active Living and Prevention of Unhealthy Substance Use. Since then, Presbyterian has worked with many groups to increase healthy eating to reduce chronic disease. This includes funding a demonstration kitchen for Roadrunner Food Bank’s Healthy Food Center, a partnership with ProMedica, a not-for-profit healthcare organization, Alliance to End Hunger and the USDA to encourage healthcare, business, government and social service leaders to end hunger through creative collaborations, a partnership with Agri-Cultura Network to provide cooking classes and nutritious food in the South Valley, and more. Learn more information at www.phs.org
As part of the USDA program, Presbyterian facilities provide select healthy options for children and then receive reimbursement. Meals must be eaten at the hospital.
- At Presbyterian Hospital’s cafeteria, children ages 3-18 can receive a free healthy meal between 1 p.m.-7:00 p.m., seven days a week.
- At Socorro General Hospital’s cafeteria, children ages 3-18 can receive a free healthy meal between 9 a.m.-4 p.m., seven days a week.
- At Plains Regional Medical Center’s cafeteria, children ages 1-18 can receive a free healthy meal between 11 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week. A caregiver accompanying the child is also eligible for a reduced price healthy meal.
About Presbyterian Healthcare Services
Presbyterian Healthcare Services exists to improve the health of patients, members and the communities we serve. Presbyterian is a locally owned, not-for-profit healthcare system of eight hospitals, a statewide health plan and a growing multi-specialty medical group. Founded in New Mexico in 1908, it is the state’s largest private employer with approximately 11,000 employees.