In my former life as a research assistant, I recruited candidates for a pilot study focused on type 2 diabetes prevention. Candidates who were high risk of developing the disease, and considered pre-diabetic, were essentially “prescribed” a specific diet and exercise program (paid for by the study) to help patients lose weight and get out of pre-diabetic range. The idea: Prevention of diseases related to diet/exercise equals healthy humans down the road, who (ideally) aren’t paying to treat preventable diseases later. According to program director Katelyn Mattox, NourishNC’s Food Farmacy pilot is much of the same.
“We’ve all known the age-old adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away,’” she says. “We know food is medicine, and you either fight or fuel disease by what you put in your body. . . . We know food-secure children get sick less often, recover from illness faster, and perform better in school. We all have to be champions for kids, in order to fuel the future of a strong, healthy generation of future adults.”
In some ways it seems like NourishNC is everywhere right now (in fact, I just volunteered for a snack pack event a couple of weeks ago). They’re nominated for encore’s readers’ choice Best Nonprofit. They have a brand new van “fighting The Hunger Monster,” which they were able to purchase from donations garnered at their annual gala (2019 is slated for September 21). Plus, several other established programs serve over 1,000 kids from 48 schools.
Yet, food insecurity persists and is higher in New Hanover County (NHC) than the national average. In fact, one-in-four NHC kids may not know from where their next meals will come. Because children with limited access to a healthy diet are often affected by chronic illness, according to Vanessa Van Gilder, RN and manager of Nunnelee Pediatric Specialty Clinic, providing healthy alternatives now is important for preventative future illness. NourishNC has partnered with Nunnelee to use the Food Farmacy program as a way for pediatricians to “prescribe” healthy food to kids they identify as food-insecure.
“After administering the Hunger Vital Sign survey right in their offices,” Mattox explains, “children leave their appointment with a box of non-perishable items and a prescription to come to the [NourishNC] warehouse to pick up fresh fruits, veggies, meat and bread.”
Private donations will fund NourishNC’s pilot program through June 2019. While they plan to seek out grants to continue the program beyond the summer, donations and proceeds from fundraisers, like Sunday’s Broccoli Bash at Tidal Creek, will help keep it going.
“NourishNC couldn’t accomplish its mission to provide healthy food to hungry children, empowering them to succeed in the classroom and community, without the support of our donors, volunteers and the folks who spread the word about the programs we run,” Mattox praises. “It is because of the partnerships and collaboration with other community advocates we can help shed light on child hunger and get more of the community involved.”
Organized by local artist and musician Mark “Mr. Mark” Herbert, the family-friendly shindig includes crafts for kids, games, raffles and performances by Broccoli Brothers Circus with Mr. Mark and other surprise guests. It’s free to attend, but donations are encouraged. All monies raised will help fund NourishNC’s Farmer’s MarKIDs, Pantry Pals and Food Farmacy, among others.
“We are currently serving more kids on our Backpack Program than ever,” Mattox details.
“Donations from amazing events like the one Mark Herbert and the Broccoli Brothers Circus are throwing are what allow us to fund and pilot new programs within New Hanover County and continue to be anywhere and everywhere kids need us!”
As usual, folks can donate or bring non-perishable food for NourishNC; particularly from their “Most Wanted Items List” (available online). Folks should always avoid donating expired foods or junk food.
“Cereal is a big need for us as we prepare to distribute food to all 1000-plus kids on our program over spring and summer breaks,” Mattox details.
Folks can follow NourishNC on Facebook latest news or sign up for their newsletter at nourishnc.org.