A different type of medicine at the doctor’s office

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KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Two million Pennsylvanians, nearly a third of them children, face food insecurity, according to the national nonprofit network of food banks called Feeding America. A local doctor’s office is trying to do something about that — one family at a time.

Inside of an industrial refrigerator, dubbed by PAK provisions, includes supplies that go home with families of pediatric patients.

“I’m not used to having to ask for help,” said Michelle Symons, a recipient from Wilkes-Barre.

Symons, a mother of four, can relate to what many families are struggling with during the COVID crisis: putting enough food on the table. Hers is above the financial threshold to qualify for aid yet still very much in need. That sort of scenario sparked an idea at this pediatric practice.

“We thought this would be a great way to help people, keep them healthy through getting point of service food right in their doctor’s office,” said Jeffery Kile, MD, pediatrician at PAK Pediatrics.

PAK Pediatrics applied for a grant at the onset of the pandemic to obtain the refrigerator unit which arrived in August. Doctors then teamed-up with a local food pantry to address food insecurity, since food is such a significant social determinant of health.

“Even just having to tweak your expenditures at the grocery store, choosing maybe inferior products just to make ends meet or just to buy enough for the family that in itself is food insecurity,” said Alvaro Reymunde, MD, also a pediatrician at PAK Pediatrics.

The food insecurity screening process here at the doctor’s office boils down to two questions: One asks if in the past 12 months they ran out of food and didn’t have enough money to buy more or if they feared that would happen.

Now, families are sent packing with provisions to help tie them over.

“Not even just food but they were able to help with diapers and formula at times when needed. It’s a really great resource that I wish more of the community knew about,” said Symons.

A resource where food is considered medicine.

“We’ve gotten nice, full bellies and good nights sleeps,” said Symons.

Hiller: “And staying healthy.”

“Yes, staying healthy. Yes, ’cause nutrition is health, right?” Symons said.

Pak pediatrics screened 4,000 families. More than 100 of them admitted to food insecurity but doctors fear the number is much greater.

You can Click Here to learn more about PAK Provisions and how to support the effort.

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