DIXON – KSB Hospital and the Living Well Church of the Nazarene are partnering to feed community members in need of a healthy meal.
The two kicked off the Fighting Hunger Feeding Wellness program Thursday, an initiative where extra food from the hospital cafeteria is packaged and taken to the church at 116 E. First St. before being distributed to those who might lack access to regular or nutritious food.
People can pick up the dinners from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and either take them home or eat at the church, no questions asked.
The program came about in an effort to curb food insecurity in the area, which affects nearly 13 percent of the Lee County and 21.5 percent of its children. Of those children, 30 percent aren't eligible for food assistance programs like SNAP or WIC.
"This gives us a chance to address that deficit," said the Rev. John Trotter, pastor at Living Well Church. "The fact is that these numbers, these statistics, represent hungry people."
The number of people they feed will depend on the amount of food able to be saved. On Thursday, 83 meals were packaged.
The hospital has to follow food regulations – certain things must be thrown away – but they have a refrigerator dedicated to food they can set aside for the program, Community Wellness Coordinator Grace Crowe said.
KSB also plans to periodically offer different wellness services like blood pressure checks, blood sugar screenings, diabetes information and general health education.
“We want this new program to be more than just a project, but something that has outcomes and makes a difference in the lives of those in our community,” Chief Nursing Officer Linda Clemen said.
Living Well Church is the pilot location for the program; the goal is to expand it to other churches and organizations. Several KSB departments are involved in the nurse-led initiative, including community wellness, dietary, auxiliary and volunteers.
"This is going to be a great program, and a lot of people are really invested in it," Crowe said.
Food insecurity, lack of enough food for a healthy lifestyle, can lead to other health risks including obesity, diabetes, nutrient deficiencies, low fruit and vegetable intake, and other indicators of unhealthy diets.
"We want to help everybody's life be sustainable, whether that's filling a one-time or lifelong need," Trotter said. "We believe that food is one step in that journey."
KSB is required to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every 3 years, and the Lee County Health Department must do an Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs every 5 years, and the two pooled their efforts in 2016 to compile data and identify future goals.
The county's goal is to drop food insecurity from 12.9 percent to 10 percent and children's food insecurity from 21.5 percent to 16 percent by 2021.
The Fighting Hunger Feeding Wellness program provides food to those in need from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Living Well Church of the Nazarene, 116 E. First St., in Dixon.