Rogue Community Health Delivers Food Boxes to Members in Need Before and During COVID-19

Rogue Community Health Delivers Food Boxes to Members in Need Before and During COVID-19

By Karen Elliott, Development Director, Rogue Community Health

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in southern Oregon struggled with food insecurity. For the past three years, Rogue Community Health Community Health Workers (CHWs) have been delivering food boxes to its members. CHWs provide members with food pantry information, but sometimes members face barriers in getting to food pantries. Those barriers have included transportation, mobility issues, illness (either chronic or acute), and time conflicts with available pantries. Conflicts can be due to work hours, childcare issues, and any other type of issue that can arise. More recently, there have been a few members in high-risk categories (due to age, underlying condition, and/or immune system concerns) who have utilized CHWs to pick up food to mitigate risk of exposure, such as the story Jane.

A Rogue Community Health staff member loads food boxes into a “Health Bug.”

Jane (not the patient’s real name) is a patient with Rogue Community Health in Medford. She is disabled and depends on her mother most of the time to help her with transportation and getting groceries. It would be very dangerous for her to be out in public and to ride a bus to get groceries, especially during this pandemic. Her mother tries, but isn’t always able to timely get Jane everything she needs. Sometimes Jane lives off peanut butter and jelly until her mom can deliver groceries. She doesn’t like to complain and is very grateful for her mom’s help. When Jane heard that CHWs at Rogue Community Health would deliver a food box to her, she was very grateful. “I am trying to stay home and stay healthy as possible. I feel so grateful to get this extra help, especially now during the coronavirus,” she says.

It wasn’t until Rogue Community Health began working with ACCESS Food Share and the Healthy Mobile Food Pantries (HMFP) that this essential service provided by CHWs really took off. The HMFPs gave the CHWs the chance to pick up food boxes for members by proxy and deliver them afterward. In addition to the HMFP, some of the supplemental pantries and brick and mortar locations have allowed CHWs to pick up food by proxy as well. Oregon Food Bank pantries, such as those managed by ACCESS in Jackson County, have adopted new technology via Link 2 Feed, which provides each person a unique ID and they are able to do anywhere within the state seamlessly and without having to fill out a lot of paperwork. With Link 2 Feed, CHWs are able to sign members up and then proxy for them, using their ID numbers.

Currently, CHWs are picking up food boxes and delivering to approximately 5-7 individuals and/or families a week. Pre-pandemic, they were delivering more, approximately 15-20 per week. Some of the newer deliveries are to higher risk members. The lower delivery numbers could be due to a variety of factors, such as fear, unemployment, or stimulus checks, etc. CHWs are open to new referrals via providers and other care team referrals as well as through our Rogue Challenge Partnership. CHWs are also part of an outreach attempt to let members know we are offering virtual visits and also asking them if there are any other needs they may have and referring back to the team for assistance with food and other SDoH concerns. CHWs will deliver food boxes to members, working with them to maintain social distancing, but also providing access to food to those individuals and families who otherwise might go without.

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