AtlantiCare Opens Food Pantry With Healthy Options

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After identifying a need for not only food but nutritious food in Atlantic City, the AtlantiCare HealthPlex has found a way to provide their patients with access to healthy options.

AtlantiCare opened up their first Pantry at the Plex on Wednesday afternoon, and are getting ready to hand out nutritious food to any patients who may need it. According to AtlantiCare HealthPlex's director, Sandy Festa, doctors now have the option to write patients' food prescriptions that can be brought to the unique pantry and get the food they need.

This new service is now available in Atlantic City and, unlike normal pantries, is specifically for AtlantiCare patients. The idea for this special program came over the summer when AtlantiCare staff teamed up with the Community Food Bank of South Jersey to host a Mobile Pantry, and soon realized the demand for better food.

Patients often meet with their doctor and are identified with a need for a healthier diet to aid their medical condition. Now, once a month, a doctor can refer one of the location’s 9,000 patients to the Pantry at the Plex. One bag, supplied by the Food Bank, holds three days worth of food for a family of four.

“We want to make sure that at our pantry that everything in their bag is going to be healthy items that aid their recovery or illness. So everything is going to be whole grain, low fat, high protein,” said Laura Engelmann, community health and wellness manager for AtlatiCare HealthPlex.

All the patient needs to access the pantry is a special food prescription, then fill out a few forms, and grab a bag off the shelf to start reaping the nutritional benefits.

“When you have a chronic illness, the doctor may tell you that there’s certain food that you should eat, and things that you shouldn’t eat. And really, the bags of food that they’ll get at the Pantry at the Plex are really just incorporating a lot of those items the doctor would recommend,” said Engelmann.

While gathering their food, patients also have access to recipes for their ingredients, measuring cups, and other kitchen essentials that can bring them one step closer to a healthier lifestyle. According to Festa, this is only the beginning for this new aid at Atlanticare and they plan on expanding to include more nonperishable options, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

You know, we’re really committed to reducing barriers, so we could talk 'food, food, food,' but if they don’t have access to it... this is why we thought we needed to step up to the plate and put the ball in motion," said Festa.

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