MEDFORD, OR, June 16, 2023 — In a compelling effort to address the pervasive issue of food insecurity in Oregon, the American Heart Association has embarked on a transformative mission to improve nutrition security and combat the detrimental effects it has on health outcomes, particularly among vulnerable populations. Recent statistics reveal that approximately 552,900 Oregonians currently grapple with food insecurity, a staggering figure that includes 194,070 children.
Recognizing the direct link between food insecurity and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, the Association has intensified its efforts to forge critical connections between food-insecure individuals and sustainable food sources. By collaborating with organizations such as NOWIA Unete, Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, the Association aims to implement effective programs that tackle food insecurity head-on.
NOWIA Unete, Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, a movement established in 1996, has been a steadfast advocate for farm workers and immigrants, striving to empower and enrich their lives through education, cultural presentations, and organized efforts to defend immigrant rights. Situated in a food desert in southern Oregon, Unete serves as a strategic partner in the fight against nutrition insecurity, uniquely positioned to understand the needs and challenges faced by the local community.
Since January 2023, the Association has been actively engaged with Kathy Keesee, Unete's dedicated program coordinator, in conducting screenings for food insecurity at the organization's Medford-based food pantry. Visitors to the pantry are asked two crucial questions that gauge their food security status, including concerns about running out of food before having the means to replenish it and the inability to make purchased food last due to financial constraints. Affirmative responses to either question, indicating the experience of food insecurity, are noted as "sometimes" or "often."
The screenings are available in both English and Spanish to ensure inclusivity and accessibility. The data collected by Unete staff during the screenings are meticulously recorded in a comprehensive spreadsheet, enabling ongoing monitoring and follow-up assessments of clients over time.
One distinguishing aspect of Unete's approach is the dedication of their pantry staff to provide holistic support, aiming to foster healthy lifestyles among visitors. They not only assist individuals in completing the screening process but also ensure that everyone receives the necessary support. This includes guidance on local Department of Human Services (DHS) offices and enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as provisions such as food vouchers, food boxes, and information on long-term solutions.
The Bridges to Nutrition Security project, an initiative launched by the American Heart Association, has become instrumental in supporting food-insecure clients at Unete. As part of this project, individuals in need now receive gift cards for local grocery stores, enabling them to access nutritious food and alleviating the burden of food insecurity. Unete has embraced this collaboration wholeheartedly, conducting screenings for over 120 visitors each month, and making a proof und impact on the community it serves.
Through these concerted efforts, the American Heart Association and Unete are spearheading a profound transformation in the landscape of food insecurity in Oregon. By addressing nutrition security head-on and providing essential resources to those in need, they are not only nourishing bodies but also empowering individuals and promoting healthier futures for all Oregonians.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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