Northern Illinois Food Bank RX Mobile program provides healthy food to people with chronic disease

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- A new pilot program from the Northern Illinois Food Bank is making sure those in need are getting what the doctor ordered.

The RX Mobile program aims to help people who are struggling with chronic disease getting access to highly nutritious food in order to maintain a healthy diet.

Friday the RX Mobile truck was stocked with 6,000 pounds of food, enough for 5,000 meals for families. Forty-six percent of the food is fresh produce.

"The RX Mobile is acknowledging the connection between food insecurities and chronic disease," said Jeannine Kanegiesser, development officer for Northern Illinois Food Bank. "We know that a lot of our neighbors that are experiencing chronic disease may also be experiencing food insecurities. It's real hard to get better from your diagnosis if you can't access nutritious food."

The food bank has partnered with hospitals and clinics in Stephenson, DuPage, Will and Lake counties in Illinois to bring the produce to patients. Food insecurity is often associated with a higher risk of chronic disease, like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension and depression, they said.

"We also know a lot of people that are in food insecurity are likely to have a chronic disease diagnosis or be at risk of chronic disease," Kanegiesser said. "They also tend to have higher medical bills than their food insecure neighbors so this is very important."

The program evolved from the food bank's Healthy Harvest Box program, in which people struggling with food insecurity received a box of fresh produce once a week through their healthcare provider. RX Mobile has been in place since July 2019.

There are four healthcare partners in the program: Advocate Condell in Lake County, Freeport Health Network in Stephenson County, AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale in DuPage County, and AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.

"We meet one-on-one with our patients," said Kellie Bailey, who works at St. Joe's. "We also have diabetes classes here as well so we are giving them one-on-one diet nutrition counseling."

Participants are grateful for the convenient locations and chance to better their health.

"I'm a diabetic, and I just found out and I have to balance my food. Sometimes it's a struggle," said Marian Love, a participant in the program.

Mary Alsum, also a participant, agreed.

"(The) community needs a place to go to be able to get healthy meals," Alsum said.

ABC7 has partnered with the Northern Illinois Food Bank Greater Chicago Food Depository through our "Share the Joy" virtual food drive.

For more information on the program and the Northern Illinois Food Bank, click here.
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