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Thanks to students at the University of Kansas Medical School, patients at the free JayDoc clinic now have access to an in-clinic pantry on Tuesday evenings.
The idea of offering food at the same location to some uninsured and underinsured people in Kansas City for non-emergency health care came from Jadesola Akinwuntan, then a sophomore medical student.
In 2021, she enlisted the help of fellow medical students Ashley DeBauge, Courtney Sharp and Grant Johnson. Akinwuntan and DeBauge were the leaders of the student organization Complementary and Integrative Medicine Advocates (CIMA).
CIMA then consulted Shelley Bhattacharya, DO, MPH, associate professor of family medicine and community health at the KU School of Medicine, because of her interest in nutrition in health care.
The three shared information about the establishment of the clinic.
Q: Why did you want to start a pantry collection site at JayDoc Clinic?
Akinwuntan: Going into medical school, I really wanted to be involved in the community. Coming from a Nigerian background, holistic health was really just a part of our healing culture. But what really gave me confidence was talking to Dr Bhattacharya. She said we (at KU Medical Center) do this all the time, we integrate medicine, we have holistic methods, nutrition talks and exercise – all as part of integrated patient care. .
Bhattacharya: The pantry is a fantastic idea. There is definitely a need, especially with the ongoing pandemic and the difficulties so many families are facing right now. Families need good, healthy food that can go the extra mile until their next support (paycheck) can arrive. It really is a great way to help the community.
Q: Why did you focus on nutrition as a way to help the community?
Food for the JayDoc Free Clinic pantry comes from the Harvesters Community Food Network, and medical students can choose specific offerings based on the needs of patients seen that evening.
All photos on this page were provided by Ashley DeBauge.
Akinwuntan: It seemed like the best and smartest way to start helping, especially for people with diabetes, and how diabetes can be prevented with the right diet. By serving a community that may be financially disadvantaged, we help with fresh produce, which this group may struggle to access on their own.
DeBauge: Many community resources were available at the JayDoc Clinic, such as brochures and handouts, where to find primary care physicians, and even information about food pantries. But it’s so much more tangible when you’re physically able to give 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 pick up 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 collect from Harvesters, written in Spanish and English.
Akinwuntan: Yes, and if you’re a patient at JayDoc, you’re a pantry patient and welcome to get whatever you need. Sometimes we see families of 10 people. So we try to respond to those boxes and how much food we give to those families of 10. We’ve also noticed that transportation is a huge barrier for a lot of people to get into pantries. We are becoming a one-stop-shop not only for health care and prescriptions, but also for healthy food options.
Q: So every Tuesday night at JayDoc Free Clinic, what do you offer patients as part of this menu plan?
|KU School of Medicine student Jadesola Akinwuntan checks out the products available to JayDoc patients in November 2021. The medical students selected many fresh fruits and vegetables to add to the JayDoc Clinic pantry.|
Akinwuntan: We get the box of fresh produce that Harvesters offers. This often comes with onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. We can also get things like avocados, raspberries, blueberries (and) pineapples. We really favor fresh products because at the moment we cannot afford to store dairy products and meat. We also adapt the menu to the specialized evening we serve (at the clinic). So if it’s a diabetic night, we’re going to avoid sugary snacks and crisps.
DeBauge: Medical student volunteers who work that night hand out a form to each patient, and those patients can see all the different food options available for that night and be able to choose what they prefer. That’s good because instead of giving out a one-size-fits-all box of food, we’re able to adapt it.
Q: The American Society for Nutrition says “food as medicine” is an important crossroads between nutrition and medicine. Do you consider providing healthy nutrition to your patients as another role in your medical career?
DeBauge: Involving medical students in the pantry and menu shows them that it matters. We can prescribe the drug, but we also provide the additional, holistic care that is honestly just as necessary as other drugs.
Bhattacharya: The pantry has also been a platform to bring students together for a worthwhile purpose and a platform for the community to obtain a variety of healthy foods. It is also an educational platform, to increase awareness and visibility (of nutrition). It helps fill a void in the way we learn as a healthcare community about things that just aren’t well known or well covered (in the classroom).
Akinwuntan: He also helped build relationships with patients. One evening, while volunteering as a medical student, I encountered this patient who was using the pantry. But I had met her before when I worked in the pantry, and we had interacted, so that connection was already there. Now, every time I see her at the clinic, I ask her how she is. I think every time you interact with patients beyond prescription pills and your diagnosis, it makes the whole medical experience better – because it’s on a human level.
To note: The pantry now continues under the next year of CIMA leadership, including medical students Rebekah Elliott, Denise Muchangi, Ryan Asauskas and Clara Bing. Akinwuntan and DeBauge, now in their next year of medical school, handed over the reins.
For more information about the free JayDoc clinic, including its free pantry during its Tuesday night specialty clinics, email the clinic.