RUMFORD — Patients discharged from Rumford Hospital this year may find that they’ve been given a bag of healthful, high-protein food and a list of where to find food pantries.

The hospital, along with Bridgton Hospital and Family Medicine Residency in Lewiston, is participating in the Community Health and Hunger Program in partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine.

Anne Dolloff, RN, case management coordinator at Rumford Hospital, collects statistics on the program. She said about 8 percent of patients discharged from the hospital do not get enough to eat. This means that they have answered the two questions about food insecurity on the hospital’s pre-discharge questionnaire positively, meaning they said they were “sometimes” or “often” worried about running out of food in the past 12 months or they ran out of food and didn’t have enough money to buy it.

“We were fortunate enough to be part of the pilot program (through Good Shepherd Food Bank) which started last December,” Dolloff said. “We finished the six-month pilot and because of the need in this area, we were granted an additional (year).”

During the six-month pilot, the hospital distributed 750 pounds of food to their discharged patients and others in the community who needed it.

“It’s truly a team effort (at the hospital) because it’s really the entire staff that has a hand in assessing (the patients’ needs),” Dolloff said.

With the added grant the hospital is excited to expand its program to end food insecurity to the doctors’ offices at Swift River Family Medicine, where pediatric patients and their families will benefit from receiving a bag of healthy food, which is enough for a three-day supply, and a list of community food pantries, meal sites and other resources.

Dolloff said the resource list included in the bag of food is important for anyone needing food or help with other basic needs because it lists all of the food banks in Oxford County by town, the hours of operation, phone numbers and the days of the week that the food bank or pantry is open.

“There are also some links for the (food stamps) program, some senior meal sites and some other resource information,” she said.

Becky Hall, an interim hospital administrator at Rumford Hospital, also helps manage the hospital’s Community Health and Hunger program.

“Food is medicine,” Hall said. “And one of the things we found with all of our patients who are positive for food insecurity (is that) all of them had a chronic health condition. So there is definitely a correlation between healthy foods and health conditions and that’s why it is important for the hospital to be a part of this program.”

Laura Vinal, the program manager for Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, said, “We know that food insecurity and poor nutrition are contributing to chronic illness, but that management of chronic illness and the health care costs related to manage chronic disease often pushes people into food insecurity. It makes sense for us to look at the root cause of that, and the root cause is that they don’t have access to nutritious foods in the first place.”

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Rumford Hospital employees Jennifer Holmes, left, Mindy Worthley and Anne Dolloff assist with the Community Health and Hunger program at Rumford Hospital. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)

Rumford Hospital employees Becky Hall, left, Mindy Worthley and Anne Dolloff assist with the Community Health and Hunger program at Rumford Hospital. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)

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