With a nearly $5 million investment from Monroe County, Trillium Health is poised to become one of the largest food programs in the region, officials say.
The dollars, part of Bring Monroe Back, are being used to renovate Trillium Health’s existing food pantry, increase the volume of food being offered, support full-time staff, and purchase a large freezer/cooler for storage. ARPA funds are also being used to open two mini food pantries at satellite locations, officials say.
Bring Monroe Back is the county’s plan to distribute funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The county has received more than $144 million in federal dollars.
“Food insecurity is a major concern in Monroe County,” says Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. ”This ARPA funding is a way for Trillium Health’s patients to get a healthier variety of food at no cost while giving families the option to choose what they want. Monroe County fully supports Trillium Health’s mission of a holistic approach to a healthier community.”
With offices at 259 Monroe Ave., Trillium Health is a community health center, offering primary and specialty health care services. In addition to lab, pharmacy, insurance assistance and mental wellness services, the organization also helps community members with food, housing and transportation, health outreach and harm reduction.
Jason Barnecut-Kearns, president and CEO of Trillium Health, notes that food insecurity is associated with numerous adverse social and health outcomes, and it is increasingly considered a critical public health issue.
“The ARPA funds will allow us to significantly expand the number of people that we serve in our food program,” he says. “It will also help to support our medical care managers, who will connect members of the community to a variety of programs and services, leading to a fully comprehensive approach to health care.”
ARPA funds will be used to hire medical case managers who will help provide health care coverage and other supportive services.
“Trillium Health and its staff are providing an essential service to our community. Every family deserves to have good quality food on their table and no one should have to stress over providing such resources,” says Yversha Roman, Monroe County Legislature minority leader.
In May, Feeding America reported that all counties and congressional districts in the nation experience food insecurity. The percentage of the overall population estimated to be food insecure ranges from a low of 2 percent in Griggs County, North Dakota to 26 percent in Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska, the report states.
In Monroe County, based on 2021 data, the food insecurity rate is more than 9 percent. A meal costs $3.93. Seventy-two percent of the food insecure population live below eligibility requirements for federal food assistance programs. Feeding America estimates that it would take more than $50 million in funds to meet food needs.
In the past year, the Trillium Health food pantry served more than 1,300 people, officials say. It provided 4,500 meals with an estimated 300,000 pounds of food. Through a grocery store model, Trillium Health clients have the power of choice. This model results in less food waste, encourages healthy eating, and provides food for the correct number of people within the household, officials say.
“At Trillium Health, we’re proud to serve everyone that walks through our doors regardless of their ability to pay—ensuring that everyone receives the high-quality, compassionate, judgment-free care that they deserve,” Barnecut-Kearns says.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].