June 20, 2019
St. Peter’s Health and Helena Food Share are announcing a new partnership to increase the fresh, healthy food items available at the local food pantry. The partnership significantly expands Helena Food Share’s existing Healthy Foods Initiative, stocking the shelves and coolers with a wider variety and more consistent offering of fresh, locally-grown produce, lean meats and healthy grains.
According to St. Peter’s Health CEO Wade Johnson, the decision to invest in Helena Food Share stems from a shared commitment to improve the health and wellness of the community. “Our two organizations have a common goal to positively impact the health of our friends, family and neighbors,” said Johnson. “Working together, we can ensure that people in our community who face food insecurity are able to maintain a healthier diet with plenty of access to lean meats, whole grains and fresh produce.”
For years, Helena Food Share has stocked its Farm Stand during the summer months with fresh produce thanks to local home and community gardeners, the grocery and farmer’s market rescue program and local donors. Healthy, and often local, grains are also available to clients through the organization’s Harvest of the Month Program, and lean wild game is available during the fall season because of supporters for the Hunters Against Hunger program. The $20,000 annual donation from St. Peter’s Health will not only ensure these existing efforts are sustainable into the future, it will fund new initiatives that expand healthy food offerings, like guaranteed contracts with local farmers.
“Helena Food Share already receives remarkable support from local farmers by participating in programs like the coupon program for seniors at the farmer’s market,” said Executive Director of Helena Food Share Bruce Day. “Our partnership with St. Peter’s Health is allowing us to contract, for the first time, with a local farm to guarantee a supply of fresh produce in our pantries. Helena Valley farmer Terry Johnson, of Johnson's Nursery and Gardens, will be growing tomatoes, winter squash and cucumbers for our customers this summer. It’s a win-win: we are able to provide more healthy food for our customers while also supporting our local agricultural community.”
The importance of having consistent access to nutritious food cannot be stressed enough, said St. Peter’s Health Director of Population Health Amy Emmert, RN. “Our food choices have a direct impact on our overall health and well-being, and there is strong evidence that people with healthy eating patterns live longer and have fewer chronic diseases,” said Emmert. “A partnership like this plays a critical role in preventing and reducing chronic disease in our community.”