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University Medical Center New Orleans, Second Harvest Food Bank Dedicate Food Pantry at UMC Cancer Center

Therapeutic Food Pantry is the first hospital-based food pantry in the region

University Medical Center New Orleans (UMC) has joined Second Harvest Food Bank in opening a Therapeutic Food Pantry at UMC’s Cancer Center. The first hospital-based food pantry in the region addresses malnutrition and food insecurity among  the hospital’s cancer patients by providing fresh, highly-nutritious food, nutrition education, cooking classes and other programming.

More than 100 Cancer Center patients have signed up to receive food through the pantry.

“At UMC we recognize that nutrition plays a vital role in cancer prevention and treatment,” says Dr. Adam Riker, UMC Medical Director, Cancer Service Line. “By offering our patients access to fresh, healthy food, we can eliminate some of the barriers often faced when attempting to live a healthy lifestyle.”

“We are so honored to partner with UMC on this ground-breaking initiative,” said Natalie Jayroe, President and CEO of Second Harvest. “Nearly every member of our staff, volunteers, and overall community have been impacted by cancer in some way. To be able to introduce food and nutrition as medicine as a part of cancer treatment is simply amazing.”

The Therapeutic Food Pantry is made possible through the generous support of Baptist Community Ministries, Methodist Health System Foundation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.

The food pantry will stock fresh, nutrient-dense foods that combat malnutrition and promote optimal health. Among the food items offered are fresh fruits and vegetable, lean proteins, healthy grains and other staples, and nutrition supplements.

The program will also offer exercise classes, massage therapy, support groups, live music, benefits enrollment assistance (SNAP, Medicaid, etc.), and social service referrals.

“The Cancer Center food pantry has added another level in our pursuit to treat the ‘whole patient’,” says Laura Kerns, Cancer Center Dietitian. “It addresses the main goal, which is food insecurity, but also provides our patients an opportunity to engage and form relationships with our nutrition team so that all of their nutrition-related needs can be met during and after their cancer treatment.”

Assessments are done at each clinic visit and patients are referred to the Therapeutic Food Pantry if they show signs of food insecurity and malnutrition. UMC Cancer Center dietitians will schedule pantry appointments with each referred patient to help them select foods tailored to their specific treatment plan, health needs and dietary requirements.

"According to the National Cancer Institute, the success of anticancer therapy is affected by the patient's nutrition status before and during treatment. Nutrition influences the patient's ability to tolerate therapy and is a vital part of cancer treatment," said David M. Brandt, Director of UMCNO Cancer Services.

Bill Masterton, President and CEO of UMC, said. “We are grateful for the partnership with Second Harvest and for the support of our funding partners to bring a Therapeutic Food Pantry to UMC. Our mission is to provide exceptional medical care to our patients as well as programs that address determinants of health and support patients in their overall well-being, making this project a great fit.”