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Health organization battles food insecurity among seniors during COVID-19 pandemic

(WJRT)
Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 10:32 PM EDT
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(04/28/20) - Those delivering meals and groceries to some of our most vulnerable are heroes to the senior citizens they help.

Oak Street Health showed us how it transformed from transporting patients to delivering them groceries during a time of crisis.

After weeks of staying home to stay safe from COVID-19, some people are starting to crack, but not Flint native Brenda Lee.

“If I don’t have to do anything I’m here,” Lee said. “I’m a homebody.”

Just about the only thing Lee will leave for is to buy groceries.

“I don’t have a vehicle so transportation sometimes is kind of hard to get,” she said.

She typically depends on her daughter to take her, but thanks to a senior delivery program Lee is having to grocery shop a little less often.

A box of food, fruit and vegetables was delivered to her last week by Oak Street Health. The vans are usually for patients to get to and from appointments. Now, they are loads up with boxes of food to help the organization battle food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic. Oak Street Health has seven Michigan locations.

“Across Michigan we’ve done about 330 deliveries over the last two weeks, and over our whole organization we’ve done about 2,000 deliveries,” said Dr. Michele Mitchell, a family medicine physician with Oak Street Health.

Mitchell says getting food in places like Flint was an issue before COVID-19, but now it’s magnified for some of the organization’s patients.

“We are very aware that our patients deal with on a regular basis, but because of COVID-19 and this pandemic, their access to resources that they may get some food and assistance with normally is very limited,” Mitchell said.

Oak Street Health has partnered with local food pantries and food banks to make the deliveries possible once a month to Lee and others.

“It helps out,” Lee said.

In addition to making grocery deliveries, Oak Street Health is doing wellness checks for seniors to also help tackle any social or mental health needs.

If you would like to learn more, call 888-605-1547.

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Michigan also recently received $7.5 million in federal funds to help provide meals to adults over the age of 60.

That includes both home delivery and pickup options.

The state health department tells us the program is being handles largely by local Area Agencies on Aging.

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