Thanks to students at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, patients at the JayDoc Free Clinic now have access to a food pantry at the clinic on Tuesday evenings.
The idea of providing food in the same place some of Kansas City’s uninsured and underinsured go for non-emergency health care came from Jadesola Akinwuntan, then a sophomore medical student.
In 2021, she enlisted the help of fellow medical student Ashley DeBauge, Courtney Sharp and Grant Johnson. Akinwuntan and DeBauge were leaders of the student organization Complementary and Integrative Medicine Advocates (CIMA).
CIMA then consulted with Shelley Bhattacharya, DO, MPH, an associate professor of family medicine and community health at KU School of Medicine, because of her interest in nutrition in health care.
The three shared some information about how the clinic came about.
Q: Why did you want to start a food stock pick-up point at the JayDoc clinic?
Akinwuntan: When I went to medical school, I really wanted to be something for the community. With a Nigerian background, holistic health was really just part of our healing culture. But what really gave me confidence was talking to Dr. Bhattacharya. She said that we (at the KU Medical Center) do this all the time, we integrate medicine, we have holistic methods, nutrition discussions and exercise – all as part of integrated patient care.
Bhattacharya: The food bank is a great idea. It is definitely needed, especially with the ongoing pandemic and the hardships that so many families are now facing. Families need good, healthy food that can go the extra mile until their next support (salary) can come in. This is a really great way to help the community.
Q: Why did you focus on nutrition as a way to help the community?
Pantry food at the JayDoc Free Clinic comes from Harvesters Community Food Network, and medical students can choose specific offerings based on the needs of the patients seen that night.
All photos on this page are contributed by Ashley DeBauge.
Akinwuntan: It just seemed like the best and smartest way to start helping, especially for people with diabetes, and how much diabetes can be prevented with good nutrition. By serving a community that may be financially disadvantaged, we help with fresh produce, which may be difficult for this group to achieve alone.
DeBauge: There were many community resources available at the JayDoc clinic, such as pamphlets and handouts, where to find primary care physicians, and even information about food pantries. But it’s so much more of a tangible benefit if you’re physically able to hand people a free box of food at the end of the night.
Q: Where does the food for the pantry come from?
DeBauge: We coordinate to collect the food from Harvesters Community Food Network. And then we prepare a menu (for the week, with recipe suggestions) based on the food we were able to pick up from Harvesters, written in both Spanish and English.
Akinwuntan: Yes, and if you’re a patient at JayDoc, you’re a food bank patient and welcome to get everything you need. Sometimes we see families of 10 people. So we try to provide those boxes and the amount of food that we give those families of 10. We also noticed that transportation is a huge barrier for many people to get to food pantries. We are becoming a one-stop shop, not only for health care and prescriptions, but also for healthy food.
Q: So, on any given Tuesday night at JayDoc Free Clinic, what do you offer patients as part of that menu plan?
|KU School of Medicine student Jadesola Akinwuntan reviews the products that will be available to JayDoc patients in November 2021. The medical students selected plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to add to the JayDoc clinic’s food supply.|
Akinwuntan: We receive the fresh box that Harvesters offers. This often comes with onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. We can also get things like avocados, raspberries, blueberries (and) pineapple. We really prioritize fresh produce as we don’t currently have the resources to store dairy and meat. We also adapt the menu to the specialty evening we serve (in the clinic). So if it’s diabetes night, we stay away from sugary snacks and chips.
DeBauge: Volunteer medical students working that night give each patient a form, and those patients can see all the different food options available for that night and choose what they want. That’s great, because instead of giving a one-size-fits-all box of food, we can customize it.
Q: The American Society for Nutrition says that “food as medicine” is an important intersection between nutrition and medicine. Do you see providing healthy nutrition to your patients as yet another role in your medical career?
DeBauge: Involving student doctors in the food supply and the menu shows that this is important. We can prescribe the medication, but we also provide the complementary and holistic care that is frankly just as necessary as the other medication.
Bhattacharya: The pantry has also been a platform for bringing students together for a worthy cause, and a platform for the community to get a healthy variety of foods. It is also an educational platform, to increase awareness and visibility (of nutrition). It helps fill a void in the way we, as a healthcare community, learn about things that are just not well known or handled well (in the classroom).
Akinwuntan: It has also helped build a bond with patients. One evening, while volunteering to be a student doctor, I met this patient who was a pantry user. But I’d met her before when I was manning the pantry, and we were in touch, so that connection was already there. Every time I see her at the clinic, I ask how she’s doing. I think when you deal with patients that go beyond prescription pills and your diagnosis, it makes the whole medical experience better — because it’s on the human level.
Remark: The pantry now continues under the next year of CIMA leadership, including medical students Rebekah Elliott, Denise Muchangi, Ryan Asaukas and Clara Bing. Akinwuntan and DeBauge, now in their next year of medicine, handed over the reins.
Email the clinic for more information about the JayDoc Free Clinic, including the free food supply during the special clinics on Tuesday evenings.