The Mid-South Food Bank debuted one of its two new Nutrition on Wheels trucks Thursday, which will distribute food to low-income people at clinics and senior sites in the Memphis area.
Church Health in Memphis was the first stop, with patients receiving food boxes delivered by Nutrition on Wheels outside Crosstown Concourse.
“What’s great about the trucks is we’re able to be mobile with it and get out to clients that may have transportation problems,” said Cathy Pope, Mid-South Food Bank president and CEO.
The mobile food pantry trucks will allow Mid-South Food Bank to serve nearly 39,000 more people annually. They will distribute fresh food every week to 30 clinics and senior sites.
Target sites for Nutrition on Wheels beyond Church Health include Regional One, Christ Community Health Services and UT Health Science Center, according to the Mid-South Food Bank’s summer newsletter.
Through Nutrition on Wheels, the food bank loads up a truck with the produce it ordered — Thursday’s order included apples, oranges and grapes — and the truck drives to its scheduled destination, Pope said. The trucks are also loaded up with dry foods, such as brown rice, and other important pieces of a healthy meal.
Mid-South Food Bank bought the trucks through a $500,000 UnitedHealthcare grant. Stephen Wilson, UnitedHealthcare’s CEO of Tennessee and Arkansas, said UnitedHealthcare has always contributed locally, “but not to this magnitude.”
“What we realized is 80% of what influences someone’s health happens outside of a hospital setting,” Wilson said. “So, it’s social determinants. Things like access to food, access to transportation, education, having a job, living in a safe neighborhood. All of that has a greater impact on one’s overall health.”
That led to UnitedHealthcare providing grants to the Mid-South Food Bank and other nonprofits to solve “clinical and social issues,” including easy access to fresh produce and other healthy foods, Wilson said.
The Mid-South Food Bank says its coverage area, which includes West Tennessee, has 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 5 children who face food insecurity and hunger. Additionally, Pope said produce in the grocery store is more expensive than canned, processed food or fast-food options.
The trucks being refrigerated allows the food bank to more easily take produce on the road, Wilson said. Each truck can carry about 8,500 pounds in food.
“We want to make sure we’re getting out the produce to where the people are,” Pope said.
Max Garland covers FedEx, logistics and health care for The Commercial Appeal. Reach him at email@example.com or 901-529-2651 and on Twitter @MaxGarlandTypes.