Beaumont Children’s received a $150,000 grant from Rite Aid Healthy Futures recently to expand “equitable care and improved health outcomes for children in underserved and vulnerable neighborhoods,” said a Beaumont press release.
The funds will go towards supporting the Metro Detroit Healthy School Pantry Program, which supplies school food pantries to children with food insecurity and limited access to health care resources. This grant will add 11 pantries in schools across the southeastern districts of Wayne-Westland, Taylor, and Romulus.
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The funding comes through Rite Aid Healthy Futures “Connecting Communities” initiative, which aims to assist children’s hospitals and schools advance health and racial equity through improved access to health services for underserved communities. .
The overall investment of the Connecting Communities initiative includes $3 million for hospitals and community-based programs across 15 states. These funds go towards programs mainly focusing on food insecurity, food distribution, and nutrition education.
With children in southeast Michigan spending much of their time at school, the investment aims to “help eliminate root obstacles that keep communities from achieving health and wellness,” said the Beaumont press release.
“We can’t expect our kids to achieve academically if they are food insecure, dealing with mental health issues or other things that are impeding or acting as barriers to their learning,” said Dr. John Dignan, Superintendent of Wayne-Westland School District. “We must make a conscious attempt to knock down any barriers that are standing in the way of our kids and their learning. Education is the key to open doors, and all kids need to have access to it.”
The grant will also aim to focus on the whole child by including wrap-around services to youth and their families. This will include the offering of grab-and-go snacks for children, backpack items to take home, and hygiene care materials.
School staff will be trained on the Beaumont Community Resource Network—an online referral network that connects underserved people to reduced cost services—to help connect youth and families to additional Beaumont services such as needed housing, employment, transportation, and education.
“Expanding equitable care doesn’t start in the emergency room. It starts in our neighborhoods,” said Matt DeCamara, executive director of Rite Aid Healthy Futures. “Though the needs are great, so are the opportunities for progress. Children’s hospitals already play a critical role delivering vital medical care, and many of these institutions have developed impactful programs to serve kids, families and communities in ways that extend beyond traditional medical care. Working together, we can ensure everyone has what they need to live longer, healthier lives.”