Franciscan Health’s Fresh Start Markets are celebrating a milestone this fall after serving nearly 3,900 food insecure residents with healthy options in their first year of operation.
The Fresh Start Markets at the St. Clare Clinic in Crown Point at 1121 Indiana Ave. and in Hammond at 5530 Hohman Ave. are part of the healthcare ministry’s efforts to fight food insecurity in the Region. The healthy food pantries allow those in need to shop free of charge.
“The markets are focused on people with acute and chronic diseases, not just filling gaps in food security,” Franciscan Health Community Health Improvement Coordinator Wendie Clark said. “People are often faced with what is fast and easy when it comes to food choices and those tend to be foods that are filled with sodium and preservatives, which are not the best choices for health.”
The Fresh Start Markets were developed as part of a food insecurity initiative between the Franciscan Health Foundation and the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. According to the Food Bank, roughly one in six Northwest Indiana residents is food insecure.
Phase I of the project was the Mobile Markets, which provide food to those in need with monthly drive-through events at various Franciscan Health locations throughout the year. Franciscan Health employees volunteer their time to staff the events.
The Fresh Start Markets were Phase II and Phase III was the Food Rx Program, which allows low-income individuals and their families to receive additional, specific foods to meet their individual health needs.
While the Fresh Start Markets are centered on providing healthy food options, the staff also works to get to the root of the underlying causes of food insecurity.
“You can’t just feed them because it’s not the only deficit they have in their lives,” Clark said. “We’re Franciscan, so we feed them body, mind and spirit.”
One of the ways the staff does that is by providing a safe, friendly atmosphere.
“We want people to feel welcome and reduce the trauma of coming for help,” Franciscan Health Community Health Specialist Selena Tinoco said. “It can be a shameful experience and we do all we can to lessen that feeling. We welcome them, let them take their time and most importantly, we listen so we can see what else we can help them with, either through our other services with Franciscan or by making connections to get them the help they need.”
Food insecurity can be particularly stressful around the holidays when there is added financial pressure to purchase gifts. Clients at the St. Clare Clinic Fresh Start Market in Crown Point are receiving extra help for holiday meals with a donation of 75 $120 Strack & Van Til grocery gift cards and two $160 gift cards purchased by a group of roughly 20 largely anonymous donors who call themselves the Friends of the St. Clare Clinic.
The organization raised more than $9,000 to help feed neighbors this holiday season, about $3,000 more than their 2022 donation.
“This philanthropic project allows our food insecure neighbors to enjoy a traditional holiday meal and to make the same kinds of memories around the table with their families that many of us take for granted,” Franciscan Health Foundation Executive Director Rick Peltier said. “We thank the Friends of the St. Clare Clinic for their generous and longstanding support.”
More information on how to contribute to support the Fresh Start Market by supporting the Food Insecurity Fund is available at FranciscanHealthFoundation.org or by calling the Franciscan Health Foundation at (219) 661-3401.
For more information about the Fresh Start Markets and other food insecurity programs, contact the Franciscan Health Community Health Improvement office at (219) 407-6948.