Special to The Banner News
In the age of media, most are aware that food insecurity is a very prominent issue in Third World countries. Due to food insecurity being a well-known issue, these countries attract an abundance of funding and resources from all over the world. While this support is extremely important and necessary, there is a lack of awareness and support surrounding food insecurity in our own country, state, and even our communities.
During and following the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity became more prominent in the United States, as a result of the increase in unemployment and poverty. High rates of food insecurity are inevitable in communities with high rates of poverty. According to recent United States Census Bureau data (2019), Arkansas has a poverty rate of 16.1%- compared to the national average of 10.5%. Arkansas also has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. Food insecurity leads to poor health outcomes- mental and physical. According to Feeding America data (2020), Arkansas's overall food insecurity rate is 14.7%- compared to the national average of 11.8%.
Taking a deeper look into food insecurity in Arkansas, the region with one of the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity is the Arkansas Delta region. Residents within these communities experience daily challenges including poverty, unemployment, lack of access to healthcare, and poor health outcomes. While younger residents of these communities often leave the area for more opportunity, the seniors that remain in the area are left as an extremely vulnerable population.
After years of crucial planning, in March 2023, the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership commenced a food delivery program to address food insecurity in this region- The Good Food Rx. The Good Food Rx's fully equipped and functional office, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, is based in Lake Village, Arkansas. The project's mission is to address food insecurity among seniors in this region, as well as advocate for "food as medicine", proving that food choices influence health outcomes. This project focuses on food insecure seniors (65+) who have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition.
The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership has partnered with the Lake Village Clinic to identify 60 qualified patients as participants in this program. The Good Food Rx's Lake Village site serves participating patients in Chicot County. Each patient participant is hand delivered weekly meals by the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership's team to feed up to a family of 4- also addressing the transportation barrier among participants. The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership team has
developed a cookbook containing low sodium and/or low sugar recipes that address the most prominent health conditions among the program participants: diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Additionally, the Lake Village Clinic team will continue to track and record monthly health metrics, in order to keep track of this program's health outcomes.
As of May 2023, The Good Food Rx's Lake Village site has delivered 956 meals to seniors and their families in the target area. The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership aims to grow the capacity of this program- making a positive physical and mental impact in this community, as well as others.
About the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership: Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP) is a non-profit healthcare organization headquartered in Lake Village, Arkansas. ARHP members currently include 16 rural hospitals, 2 federally qualified health centers, and 3 medical teaching institutions. Initiatives aim to improve the health and wellness of rural residents, build a health workforce pipeline, sustain rural hospitals, and strengthen rural economies. The organization is the largest healthcare service provider in South Arkansas and serves as a hub for economic growth and development across the region and a voice for rural health entities across the state of Arkansas.