NEW YORK — One in three Bronx children face food insecurity, with inconsistent access to the healthy foods they need to live an active life. Building off screening efforts to identify patients who fall into this category, the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) is launching a new program in partnership with Stop & Shop and About Fresh, a platform that enables healthcare professionals to connect patients to healthy food. The pilot program, called Fresh Connect, will provide prepaid debit cards to families to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at local Stop & Shop stores. Fresh Connect aims to ensure Bronx families have access to well-balanced, nutritional meals. This is being made possible with a $75,000 grant from Stop & Shop, the first major retailer in the country to partner with About Fresh.
Since 2013, About Fresh has designed and created several programs to connect families with nutritious food. One of these programs, Fresh Connect, is a tech-enabled food prescription program that addresses health disparities by enabling healthcare providers to prescribe fresh produce, often referred to as a “food as medicine initiative.” Last year, Stop & Shop rolled out the program at its stores in Massachusetts and quickly expanded to all 400+ Stop & Shop locations across its entire northeastern footprint. Since its launch, Fresh Connect cardholders have conducted tens of thousands of transactions at Stop & Shop already. Now CHAM is the first New York area hospital to partner with Stop & Shop and offer the Fresh Connect program for Bronx families.
“We talk with our families regularly about the importance of a healthy diet, but we know that many of them have difficulty finding and affording high-quality produce,” said Suzette Oyeku, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., chief, Division of Academic General Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Through this new partnership with Stop & Shop and About Fresh, we will be able to help families buy healthy foods and hope to instill sustainable habits that can help decrease risks for chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.”
Obesity and obesity-related conditions including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have been on the rise for decades in the U.S. Research has shown associations between childhood obesity and food insecurity, and according to the CDC, among children aged 1-5 years old, one in three did not eat a daily fruit and half did not eat a daily vegetable.
“We are particularly excited about the opportunity to partner with CHAM to reach kids and families,” said Josh Trautwein, Co-founder and CEO of About Fresh. “Providing children with fresh produce through Fresh Connect will be a powerful way to anchor a lifetime love for healthy food.”
The six-month pilot program will support approximately 100 families identified by pediatricians and Community Health Workers (CHWs) through Montefiore’s social needs screening which takes place at its primary care locations, as well as some patients receiving care with CHAM’s Adolescent Eating Disorder Group. CHWs are local, trusted experts who screen families, identify social challenges, and connect them to needed resources. The families selected for the Fresh Connect program will receive debit cards to buy $100 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables each month at Stop & Shop stores. This new program comes at a crucial time. Over the past few months, millions of Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits lost additional payments that were temporarily provided during the pandemic.
“As a major food retailer with a strong presence in New York City, we recognize the important role we play in improving access to healthy and affordable food for our communities,” said Gordon Reid, President of Stop & Shop. “We are proud to partner with the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore to be the first to bring the Fresh Connect prescription produce program to the Bronx to help our neighbors struggling with food insecurity gain more access to fresh, high-quality foods that support their health and wellbeing.”
Stop & Shop also recently supported CHAM with a $10,000 donation to assist with the renovation of a playroom that serves children with cancer.
About Montefiore Health System
Montefiore Health System is one of New York’s premier academic health systems and is a recognized leader in providing exceptional quality and personalized, accountable care to approximately three million people in communities across the Bronx, Westchester and the Hudson Valley. It is comprised of 10 hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and more than 200 outpatient ambulatory care sites. The advanced clinical and translational research at its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, directly informs patient care and improves outcomes. From the Montefiore-Einstein Centers of Excellence in cancer, cardiology and vascular care, pediatrics, and transplantation, to its preeminent school-based health program, Montefiore is a fully integrated healthcare delivery system providing coordinated, comprehensive care to patients and their families. For more information please visit www.montefiore.org. Follow us on Twitter and view us on Facebook and YouTube.
About Stop & Shop:
A neighborhood grocer for more than 100 years, Stop & Shop is focused on delivering a wide assortment of fresh, healthy options at a great value through strong weekly sales and everyday low prices. Its new GO Rewards loyalty program delivers personalized offers and allows customers to earn points that can be redeemed for gas or groceries every time they shop. Stop & Shop customers can choose however they want to shop – whether it’s in-store or online, which offers both delivery and same day pickup. The company is committed to making an impact in its communities by fighting against hunger, supporting our troops and through overall incredible acts of care. The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC is an Ahold Delhaize USA Company and employs more than 54,000 associates and operates more than 400 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. To learn more about Stop & Shop, visit www.stopandshop.com.
About Fresh Connect + About Fresh:
Fresh Connect enables healthcare organizations to cover the cost of fresh food for patients where they already shop, helping improve health outcomes and support overall wellbeing. Composed of a prepaid debit card funded by healthcare institutions and a HIPAA-compliant platform, Fresh Connect empowers patients who are experiencing food insecurity with the resources, convenience, and agency to purchase culturally connected, fresh food that supports their health at local retailers throughout Massachusetts.
About Fresh is a Boston-based nonprofit committed to expanding access to the high-quality, fresh food that is vital to people’s health, wellbeing, and culture. About Fresh partners with health systems and civic leaders to expand access to fresh, culturally-relevant food for people who need it most.