Christie Patterson has lived in Nassau County for 11 years. Her husband is disabled. She is unemployed because she must stay at home to care for him. They do not have health insurance. Christie found out she had diabetes in 2013. That is when she contacted Barnabas for help.
Thanks to ongoing participation in Barnabas’ Rx for Healthy Living Program, Christie’s diabetes has improved, and she is benefiting even more from a new Barnabas partnership with Amelia Fresh, a local food hub.
Amelia Fresh is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping local farmers and producers, as well as addressing food waste and food insecurity in Nassau County. Their mission is to provide convenient, economical and environmentally friendly access to healthy and fresh local goods.
Access to nutritious foods is a challenge for many Nassau County residents like Christie. But Barnabas’ Rx for Healthy Living Program encourages patients like her to take charge of their health and future by eating healthy foods. The patients who are enrolled in this program have one or more chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or other chronic illnesses.
Relatedly, more than 13 percent of our Nassau County neighbors don’t know from where or when they will get their next meal. That’s called food insecurity. And, that’s equal to 1 of 6 adults and 1 of 4 children in our community who are hungry. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access, at times, to enough food, including limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
A few of the most significant factors that influence food insecurity and lack of access to nutritious foods include poverty, unemployment and spending trade-offs such as paying housing or medical bills versus not purchasing healthy foods.
Without warning, the need for food nearly tripled as the pandemic caused a significant increase in unemployment. The past year, Barnabas’ food programs provided 207,815 meals of healthy food to 3,939 food insecure households with 20,882 family members. Barnabas is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, food partners and volunteers who donated produce, food and time to help distribute thousands of pounds of food to Nassau County neighbors in need.
In addition, several years ago Barnabas developed the Rx for Healthy Living Program to support those patients who have limited access to nutritious foods. The new partnership with Amelia Fresh serves to not only provide access, but to also educate patients about produce and ways to prepare it at home.
Every other week, Barnabas’ twenty-five RX for Healthy Living participants receive one no-cost fresh produce box from Amelia Fresh. Barnabas adds to each box a variety of no- or low-sugar and low-sodium items, based on the patients’ needs. If a patient has mobility or transportation barriers, several members of the Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise generously volunteer their time to deliver those much-needed 50 boxes each month.
“I love the Rx for Healthy Living program because it helps me resist eating sweets,” Christie said. “Receiving fruit in my produce box is great. I’ve lost some weight and have learned what kinds of produce is best for me to eat. I am so happy my diabetes is under control.”
The RX for Healthy Living Program has proven to be successful with 58% of patients with high blood pressure having achieved improved readings and meeting their target goals, and 35% of patients accomplishing weight loss of 4 to 40 pounds.
For Amelia Fresh’s regular customers who are placing orders on ameliafresh.com, the food hub offers two options to donate to Barnabas’ RX for Healthy Living Program: a monthly $5 and a one-time $20 donation, which go directly toward purchasing a box of produce for Barnabas’ patients.
Amelia Fresh Local Food Hub is located in Fernandina Beach where you’ll find locally grown seasonal produce, meats, dairy, locally roasted coffee, tea, fresh baked breads, grains, honey, soaps and other artisan goods. You can order online at AmeliaFresh.com. Orders can be picked up or delivered to your home.
Barnabas is deeply grateful to Amelia Fresh, the Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise and the many donors who support this beneficial program. For information about Barnabas’ health services and qualifications, call (904) 261-7000.