Grove City Hospital is partnering with Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County to launch a food box program in order to address food insecurity needs among patients.

The program is a function of Allegheny Health Network's (AHN) Healthy Food Centers, a program of the AHN Center for Inclusion Health and will be available through select primary care physician practices.

Availability is as follows:

- Grove City Primary Care (located in the hospital's medical office building)

- Slippery Rock Primary Care

- Family Healthcare Partners: Grove City (Hillcrest and Pine Medical), Harrisville and Mercer locations

Patients identified by their physicians as food insecure via a screening tool embedded in their electronic health care record are offered shelf-stable boxes of healthy food items to address their needs.

These items include low-sodium canned vegetables and fruits, peanut butter, dried beans, brown rice, pasta and canned chicken.  All items are source from Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County.

In addition, information on additional resources will be provided alongside healthy recipes and nutrition education materials.

"We work very heard to teach [our patients] in very basic terms how to eat a healthy nutritious diet comprised of whole foods and to do so within a budget," said registered dietitian, Colleen Ereditairo.

AHN's first Healthy Food Center opened in 2018 at AHN West Penn Hospital and has since expanded to many others in the area. Over 160,000 meals have been supplied by the Healthy Food Centers to over 16,000 patients and their families across the Pittsburgh and Erie regions to date.

According to Community Food Warehouse Director, Rebecca Page, the food desert designation is based on population density of residents in a given area and their distance from the nearest grocery store.

As a result of large supermarkets moving into more populous areas and driving small local grocers out of business, people in food deserts live 10 miles or farther from a food store.

"Compounding the issue of food deserts here is the influx of 'dollar stores' targeting these areas and mostly selling processed foods and offering no fresh options for customers, which does not solve the problem," Page said.

AHN Grove City President, Dr. David Tupponce says while the food box problem can't fix every problem for patients, it can still help with food insecurities and is part of AHN's primary focus of health and wellness.