Currently, one in six people in our community don’t know where their next meal will come from. Among this vulnerable group, individuals living with chronic diseases face new barriers to accessing nutritious options, brought on by COVID-19. Last year, Blue KC and BioNexus KC awarded the Community Health Council (CHC) of Wyandotte County the Transforming KC Health Research Grant, a two-year grant to fund research that addresses food insecurity in Kansas City. While CHC’s research initially sought to investigate the role of a community health worker in closing the food insecurity gap in chronic diseases, the team adjusted its approach to consider additional challenges brought on by the pandemic. We checked in with CHC to learn how they have used their grant money to address food insecurity in Kansas City amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Striving for a Healthier Kansas City
The impact of food insecurity often goes beyond hunger – individuals lacking vital nutrients can face all kinds of adverse health outcomes. Blue KC is committed to building a healthier and stronger community, and that is why we’re proud to play a role in CHC’s research through the Transforming KC Health Research Grant. CHC narrowed its focus to helping patients who have type 2 diabetes and are experiencing food insecurity, with plans to set up a program that delivers key resources directly to patients’ doorsteps. These resources include healthy food, hands-on nutrition and cooking education.
When the pandemic began, grocery stockpiling became the norm, making options even more scarce for those with existing barriers to accessing healthy food. CHC was able to step in with an emergency rapid food response focused on individuals who are already at risk for poor health outcomes.
CHC’s Rapid Response
All at once, Kansas Citians, along with the entire world, had one prevailing goal: limiting exposure to COVID-19, especially among high-risk groups. Stay-at-home orders were in place as a result. However, Wyandotte community members experiencing food insecurity are often only able to afford or store food for a couple of days at a time, thus frequently forcing them into the community for additional provisions. CHC was able to support door-drop deliveries to those with chronic conditions in need of food. In addition, those with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis received community health worker assistance and door-drop deliveries.
The grant research was designed to support a project with 220 enrolled individuals over the two-year period. With the pivot to its COVID-19 emergency response program, CHC has reached more than 1,600 households to date. To help curb the spread of the virus and ensure families with confirmed cases could quarantine effectively, it was important to make food available to as many residents and families as possible.
In year two, CHC is planning to enroll even more community members into the food delivery program and continue to train community health workers to ensure the nutrition and cooking educational programs are more widely available. There are additional plans to establish a food insecurity screening process at Vibrant Health locations across Wyandotte County.
As the program grows, CHC will survey community members on their knowledge and utilization of existing food access resources to assess awareness of CHC’s services within its target population. Plans to collect information on health outcomes of those who have benefitted from the food delivery program and summarizing the data are also underway. Finally, CHC will evaluate the data and work toward sustaining the program in order to continue serving Kansas Citians in this meaningful way once the grant period comes to a close.