Ask and ye shall receive.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority’s Integrated Health Network has partnered with the Port Alberni Salvation Army on a pilot program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to IHN clients.
“It feels exciting and gratifying to finally get this,” Major Bruce MacKenzie said. “We have a strong partner that we’ll be able to begin addressing this issue with.”
Finalized in March, the program is available to IHN clients who demonstrate a need for education and experience with healthy food preparation, VIHA spokesperson Anya Nimmon said.
The program starts next week and the boxes of fresh fruit and produce will be provided once a month for three months total per recipient. Along with the food box the patient will attend a course in healthy eating and food preparation.
The initiative begins to address a longstanding need of the Salvation Army’s.
In an interview with the news last winter, Major Bruce MacKenzie said that the food hampers they provided were largely carbohydrate and starch based, and that there was a need for fresh fruit and vegetables in them.
The Salvation Army and IHN were finalizing the program then before it was put to VIHA for consideration and funding.
Fresh produce for the new program will be purchased from local vendors either on the same day or as close to as possible.
“We just don’t have the capacity, space or resources to be able to accommodate storing fresh fruit and produce on site,” MacKenzie said.
The initiative will measure the need and effectiveness of the program and, depending on the results, may be extended next year.
VIHA has been looking for a provider to deliver the pilot in Alberni for a couple of years and IHN is a perfect vehicle , VIHA spokesperson Anya Nimmon said. “Healthy food boxes are educational components of the IHN’s nutritional work with patients who are learning to self manage their chronic illnesses in other communities,” she said.
The cost to deliver the program isn’t known and will be evaluated during the next several months. Nimmon couldn’t say how many clients will use it, saying further than it depends on utilization of available three boxes per client.
VIHA delivers similar programs in Nanaimo, Sooke, and Oceanside, Nimmon said.
The Community Food Bank, which the Salvation Army operates, provides up to 500 food hampers per month to those in need.