Food pantry

Chef Brianna Manning, of Kitchen 19 in Hammonton, prepares bean and cabbage soup Wednesday using items available at AtlantiCare’s new food pantry called Pantry at the Plex at the William L. Gormley AtlantiCare HealthPlex in Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC CITY — AtlantiCare patients who need assistance with medical care and accessing healthy food can now make one stop for both.

Officials from AtlantiCare and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch, held a ribbon-cutting last week for a year-round food pantry called Pantry at the Plex at the William L. Gormley AtlantiCare HealthPlex.

The pantry opened Dec. 14. It serves low-income patients receiving health care services from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays at the HealthPlex at 1401 Atlantic Ave.

A member of the AtlantiCare team, which can include a physician, nurse or social worker, evaluates patients for food insecurity and to see whether they need assistance through the pantry. Food insecurity means not having reliable access to nutritious, affordable food.

“Our health care providers will write a prescription for healthy food for individuals,” said Sandy Festa, administrative director at the HealthPlex. “The prescription will serve as a voucher for patients to receive a three- to four-day supply of healthy food items.”

Patients who also use an on-site pharmacy will be able to pick up food and medications at the same time, Festa said.

Many AtlantiCare patients have multiple chronic health issues. AtlantiCare medical staff stress the importance of eating nutritious food, especially when it comes to preventing or managing diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other issues, Festa said.

The pantry also will provide nutrition-education resources and other health and wellness information, said Laura Engelmann, the AtlantiCare Community Health and Wellness manager who leads AtlantiCare’s Growing Green Initiative.

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