HMHs Healthy Connections Meals Program

September 27, 2022

Grant will help Jersey Shore University Medical Center provide easy, healthy, medically tailored meals to more patients

Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health care network, is pleased to announce that its Healthy Connections Meals Program received a $125,000 grant from the FirstEnergy Foundation’s "Investing with Purpose" initiative. The grant will help Jersey Shore University Medical Center expand its medically tailored meals (MTM) program, which provides easy, healthy, medically-compatible meals to patients.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to improving health outcomes and saving lives beyond the walls of our facilities through our Healthy Connections program,” said Nicole Harris-Hollingsworth, EdD, MCHES, Vice President of Social Determinants of Health at Hackensack Meridian Health. “Our medically tailored meals Program is already making a real difference at Jersey Shore University Medical Center by providing healthy meals customized to our patients’ needs and connecting more patients with a community health worker.”

The Healthy Connections Meals Program launched in May 2022 and is an integral part of the network’s efforts to identify patients who have food insecurity and help eliminate any roadblocks to accessing nutritious food. The program provides patients with two meals per day for up to one week in a reusable, insulated cooler bag. Patients are then provided with a community health worker upon discharge in order to refer them to local food services and other resources that exist in their community. Overtime, the patients are monitored to help improve patient outcomes. The FirstEnergy Foundation’s grant will be instrumental in helping Jersey Shore University Medical Center provide this service to more patients. Hackensack Meridian Health has plans to expand the program across its network.

“Many families are still facing financial hardship due to the pandemic, and these awards recognize and benefit nonprofit organizations on the frontline of our current health and economic crisis whose missions also reflect FirstEnergy’s core values,” said Lorna Wisham, president of the FirstEnergy Foundation. “We’ve witnessed the positive impact these grants made for deserving organizations in 2020, and we look forward to seeing how the second round of contributions will help strengthen the communities we serve.”

FirstEnergy’s "Investing with Purpose" is focused on supporting organizations that advance health and safety, workforce development, educational and social justice initiatives. "Investing with Purpose" was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created health, financial and educational hardships for customers across FirstEnergy's six-state service territory, and in response to the events of 2020 that highlighted racial and social injustices impacting our nation. With those issues in mind, FirstEnergy leaders identified philanthropic opportunities through nonprofit organizations across its service territory that are responding to needs of vulnerable populations.

“We are so grateful to FirstEnergy Foundation for their generous grant that is allowing us to expand this vital program across our hospital and across our network – reaching even more patients,” said Kenneth N. Sable, M.D., MBA, FACEP, Regional President, Southern Market, Hackensack Meridian Health. “At Jersey Shore University Medical Center, we are committed to making sure all of our patients live healthy, meaningful lives. Through this innovative program, we are helping our patients cut through the red tape, providing them with healthy meal options and a designated community health worker to make sure they have access to the resources they need.”

The Healthy Connections Meals Program is one part of Healthy Connections, the network’s innovative and unique social determinants of health program. Hackensack Meridian Health partnered with Unite Us, formerly known as NowPow, an end-to-end technology company connecting health and social care services, to deliver referrals to local agencies that provide food, security, housing, mental health and substance abuse resources. The Unite Us platform has been integrated into the network’s electronic health record system and referrals are added to a patient’s record. Hackensack Meridian Health provides consistent screening across the network, and if a need is discovered during the screening process, such as food insecurity, a patient is referred to a community partner organization for assistance. The network recently reached one million referrals, connecting patients with social service agencies that provide key resources to ensure the continuum of care.

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