August 10, 2021

Molina Healthcare: Health Plan Partnerships Help to Solve Food Insecurity

For many, access to multiple meals a day is just a part of everyday life. But the availability of food isn’t a given for all. According to a report from Feeding America, one out of every eight Ohioans, or nearly 1.5 million people in the state, face some form of food insecurity.

The Mid-Ohio Foodbank works to end food insecurity and the job got significantly tougher in 2020, as Ohio saw unemployment figures skyrocket to record levels due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had people coming to our food banks that had never relied on us before and we even had people who had come before who needed to come in more often,” said Malik Perkins, public relations manager of the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, the food bank’s parent organization.

Even at the high levels of demand, the food banks were able to cater to those in need thanks in large part to the Mid-Ohio Farmacy Program, which is supported by local healthcare providers that include Molina Healthcare. Much like a doctor prescribes and a pharmacy fills a medical prescription for a patient, partner healthcare providers like Molina Healthcare work with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and its partner food pantries to fulfill the nourishment needs of their members.

Through an annual assessment, Molina Healthcare identifies which of its members are facing food insecurity and enrolls those individuals in the Farmacy Program. The beneficiaries can then go to a local partnered food bank and pick up fresh food at no cost.

“We view this as part of our responsibility in the community to not just pay the bills for the doctors’ offices and the hospitals, but to really identify what our members need,” said Liz Baldwin, a manager in healthcare services at Molina.

“We want to make sure our members are getting the food they need because we know food resources and having good, healthy food makes a difference for our members in terms of their overall health,” she added.

Food insecurity isn’t defined only by the quantity of food available to an individual, but also its nutritional value. Often, the most inexpensive foods and the foods most easily accessible are also the least healthy, so food banks work to provide wholesome options for the people they serve.

“Our goal is to get as much healthy, fresh food into the community as we possibly can,” said Nick Linkenhoker, executive director of the Worthington Resource Pantry.

That includes a wide variety of fresh produce, breads, dry goods, meats and dairy products.

The support of the healthcare providers has helped the Farmacy Program flourish, even in times of economic struggle.

Said Linkenhoker, “By having these partnerships we’re able to do this. Otherwise, we’d be relying on donations, which don’t always provide the healthiest options, so together we’re really working to fill this need.”

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