WOONSOCKET – Susan Cassey, 58, lives a modest life, sustained by federal Supplemental Security Income. She is diabetic. Her healthcare team at Thundermist Health Center has impressed on her the importance of protein in her diet.
“It’s expensive when it comes from meat,” Cassey said.
But not when it comes in a box provided free of charge by three healthcare organizations that have launched a pilot program designed to improve well-being – without sacrificing taste.
“It’s a great program because it will help with your health,” said Cassey, who held a succession of factory and other jobs when she was still able to work.
To meet her needs, Cassey regularly receives a box filled with ready-to-eat foods and ingredients for meals she can make herself.
“You get canned fruit, canned vegetables, lentils, rice, pinto beans, oatmeal, low-fat milk, spaghetti sauce, granola” and other foods, she said. The boxes also include hand sanitizer and face masks, much in demand during the pandemic.
Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island and Algorex Health have partnered with Thundermist on the six-month pilot program, formally known as Neighborhood-Thundermist Food Access Program. Some 140 Neighborhood Medicaid members are enrolled. Neighborhood’s $377,000 investment covers the costs of food and delivery, and also the program’s design and analytics.
“Access to healthy food is integral to improving overall health,” said Thundermist medical director Dr. Sapna Chowdhry. “If a patient goes to bed hungry or lacks access to nutritious food, it is difficult for them to focus on other aspects of health. Our partnership with Neighborhood will reduce barriers patients face in improving their health and wellbeing.”
Said Neighborhood president and CEO Peter Marino: “Neighborhood’s number-one goal is to ensure its members have access to the resources they need to live healthy lives. We have terrific partners in Thundermist and Algorex Health, and our combined efforts will help address challenges that are often the most significant barriers to food access: economic stability, access to transportation and availability of healthy foods.”
When pilot the program ends in June, Neighborhood will analyze its effectiveness and, depending on results, could expand it. Evaluation will be based on “improvements in self-reported food insecurity, levels of access to food, health status including stress levels and adherence to primary care provider and [Thundermist] appointments, plus reduced overall financial strain.”
Cassey was a fan of pinto beans before the box program, but she only ever ate them from a can. The box beans are dry, “and I had to learn to cook them,” she said.
She did — and is delighted that she did.
“They taste much better this way,” Cassey said. “I put them and peppers and Roma tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce and it tastes great.”
So Cassey has been busy in the kitchen as she works toward improving her well-being.
She recommends others follow suit.
“It’s surprising how easy it is to do,” she said.