Jones and Ann-Marie Knight, vice president of community engagement and chief diversity officer at UF Health Jacksonville, have spearheaded the initiative along with the support of many team members.
The initial concept started in 2018 when Jones and Linda Lawson, associate vice president of nursing at UF Health North, came up with the idea for a food pantry. Coupled with this idea was a shocking discovery that many UF Health Jacksonville patients identified as food insecure. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic further increased the need and urgency to open the pantry.
After researching best practices across the nation, they learned about the success of many programs, including Health-Smart led by Carolyn Tucker, PhD, director of the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program, and the Food as Medicine program, led by Judella Haddad, MD, medical director of UF Health Community and Family Medicine – Jacksonville. It became clear that an expansion of their efforts could be a clinical and a community asset. The plan took shape with support from senior leadership and the Urban Health Alliance.
In late 2020, UF Health Jacksonville hosted a fall food drive where generous donations by staff helped build an initial stock of food. As a result, select patients were able to benefit from the food pantry over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“This truly makes a difference, especially since I am still out of work right now. You all (UF Health Jacksonville) are helping me through a difficult time, and this means more than you know,” said Lynn Torres, one of the patients who received nutritious food from the Food Pharmacy.