Nutrition Hub to help combat food insecurity in downtown Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 1, 2023) - The American Heart Association, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Indiana University Health and Purdue University Center for Health Equity & Innovation cut the ribbon today on the “IU Health Nutrition Hub” at IU Health Methodist Hospital as the first step in a new food-as-medicine program that will address nutrition security as a way to reduce heart disease risk factors for residents in Marion County. The organizations received a three-year, $1 million grant from IU Health’s Community Impact Investment Fund last December to fund the project.

“Growing evidence shows that nutrition insecurity is one of the main drivers of the disparate health outcomes observed for underserved communities in Indianapolis,” said Dr. William Gill, a cardiologist with IU Health who also serves as president of the American Heart Association’s local board of directors. “This is a tremendous opportunity to improve the health of people with the greatest cardiovascular health risks by providing healthy food and education.”

The program will begin by enrolling eligible IU Health patients before expanding access to additional downtown neighborhoods in the 46202 zip code during the next two years. Participants will be able to pre-order healthy, culturally relevant foods via a new mobile app being developed by Gleaners, pick up that food from refrigerated lockers at IU Health Methodist Hospital that are accessible 24 hours a day (the IU Health Nutrition Hub), and they will receive nutrition support and education from community health workers as part of their ongoing care.

“Our goal is to eliminate as many barriers as possible from people being able to access fresh, nutritious food,” said Mary Dubinin, director of community collaborations with Gleaners. “This program will enable us to more efficiently provide food to those who need it while enhancing not only the user experience from a convenience standpoint but also adding in health information regarding the food choices.”

The program will provide participants with the ability to work with a Community Health Worker to customize an initial 7-day supply of perishable and non-perishable foods. Participants will then use the online ordering system to order 50-75 pounds of nutritious foods for their household every week.

“After implementing similar programs in several other countries around the world, such as Kenya, it is exciting to see the growth in interest in addressing the underlying Social Determinants of Health like nutrition insecurity in America,” said Dr. Sonak Pastakia, professor with the Purdue University Center for Health Equity and Innovation. “At the height of the HIV pandemic in Africa, we saw dramatic improvements in outcomes resource-constrained patients experienced when we combined medications with fresh produce prescriptions. We are now seeing the same things in America as we launch programs to address the rapidly growing burden of chronic diseases like diabetes. It is exciting to start seeing patients in Indiana experience similar benefits to what we have seen elsewhere.” 

According to Gleaners, more than 17% of people in Marion County are at or below the poverty rate, and more than 128,000 people are food insecure.

"We see increasing prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition contributing to adverse health outcomes and chronic health conditions in our patients and community members," said Kristen Kelley, executive director for quality and safety at IU Health Methodist and University hospitals. "While this work directly aligns with IU Health’s vision to make Indiana one of the healthiest states in the nation, we know it will take everyone in our community to solve this growing health issue.”

This program represents an important step in integrating social determinants of health into the health system and developing a broader food-as-medicine program that will help Hoosiers live longer, healthier lives with fewer chronic diseases while also reducing healthcare costs. The organizations hope to expand the program after the initial three-year grant period.

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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

About Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Inc. 
Gleaners was founded in 1980 and is a respected leader within Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network. Since that time, Gleaners has distributed more than 800 million pounds of food and critical grocery products through nearly 300 hunger relief agencies, schools and community partners serving Hoosiers facing food insecurity. In addition to food distribution to agencies, we serve our most vulnerable populations, seniors, and children, through specialty programs such as Gleaners2Go, Home Delivery, School-Based Pantries, Mobile Pantries, Summer Meals for Kids, and Senior Hunger Initiative programs. Gleaners is certified as a Good Wages Initiative Employer by EmployIndy. Charity Navigator has recognized Gleaners as a 4-Star organization, the highest rating for charity demonstrating fiscal management and accountability. In addition, Gleaners is an accredited charity with the Better Business Bureau and has earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. To learn more or make a contribution visit www.gleaners.org.

About Indiana University Health 
Named the “#1 Hospital in Indiana” by U.S. News & World Report, Indiana University Health is dedicated to providing a unified standard of preeminent, patient-centered care. A unique partnership with Indiana University School of Medicine – one of the nation's leading medical schools – gives our highly skilled physicians access to innovative treatments using the latest research and technology. Learn more at iuhealth.org.

About Purdue University Center for Health Equity and Innovation
The Purdue University Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI) was established in 2020 to bring together diverse faculty with a commitment to addressing inequities across the Purdue campus to design, implement, and evaluate novel approaches to address the social determinant of health challenges faced by local and global populations.

For Public Inquiries:
Tim Harms, tim.harms@heart.org

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