University of North Florida Department of Nutrition & Dietetics Center for Nutrition and Food Security
In the United States, 1 in 6 Americans or 15.8 percent lack access to adequate amounts of healthy foods, including 21.4 percent of U.S. children. The problem is even greater in Florida where 17 percent of adults and 26.7 percent of children are food insecure. Duval County has one of the highest rates of food insecurity for the state at 20.1 percent of all adults. The consequences of food insecurity are profound. In children that don't have access to enough healthy food, research has shown more difficulty learning, behavioral issues, depression and anxiety, and higher rates of obesity. Adults that don't have access to enough healthy foods have more mental health issues, obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Center for Nutrition and Food Security (CNFS) serves as a gateway to the University for non-profit Agencies, government programs, professional organizations, and industry personnel by exploring solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.
The Center’s mission is to bring individuals and organizations together in a coordinated and sustained effort that finds solutions and eliminates barriers in order to improve food access and nutritional health in the local and global community.
The goals of the CNFS are:
- provide transformational learning opportunities for students on food security and health;
- foster internal and external linkages among faculty and professionals engaged in addressing food access, food security, and nutritional health;
- assist in developing applied teaching and research on food security and nutritional health;
- acquire support for food access and nutritional health education and research;
- and serve as a liaison to external organizations on food security and nutritional health.
Current Community-Engaged Center Programs:
Food Recovery-Meal Delivery
This program recovers food from the UNF Café that would be wasted and packages it into nutritious meals that are delivered to non-profit organizations in the community. Organizations receiving meals include Northeast Florida AIDS Network, Sulzbacher Center, Lutheran Social Services, UNF Lend-A-Wing Food Pantry and Mission House. In just over 2 years, Food Fighters has recovered close to 20,000# of food and provided close to 20,000 meals to community members in need. Currently, the impact of Food Fighters on meal recipients is being evaluated.
Meals on Wings
In Duval County alone, over 1000 seniors who are eligible for Meals on Wheels are on a waitlist due to funding shortages. The Meals on Wings program offers a solution for some of those seniors. The Meals on Wings program recovers food that would normally be wasted from Baptist Medical Center and repackages the food into healthful meals. The meals are then delivered to seniors on the waitlist for Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wings uses student volunteers to recover food, prepare the meals and deliver to the seniors. In just over 1 year, the program has provided over 5000 meals to homebound seniors. The program is expanding this month. Three-month evaluation has demonstrated significant improvements in the seniors’ nutritional status, nutrient intake, food security level, loneliness and well-being.
news4jax: How You can Help Meals on Wings Keep Delivering to Seniors in Need During Pandemic
Hearts and More
There is a high prevalence of malnutrition in Heart Failure (HF) patients and malnutrition, in turn, increases complications, lengths of stay, mortality and hospital readmissions. In addition, HF patients often have difficulty following a therapeutic diet as a result of an inability to prepare meals due to fatigue, lack of access to food, or knowledge deficits. Nutritional intervention by a registered dietitian complimented with therapeutic meals may prevent complications and readmissions while improving nutritional status and quality of life. Hearts and More extends the food recovery model, providing nutrition counseling sessions by a registered dietitian along with 30 days of therapeutic diets upon discharge. The program begins in Spring with Baptist Medical Center and will include outcomes research focused on hospital readmission rates and malnutrition prevalence.
Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Programs
Food as Medicine in Diabetes
Working with University of Florida Medical Center Primary Care clinics, this fruit & vegetable prescription program identifies diabetic patients who are food insecure. The patients are enrolled in a 6-week nutrition program that includes cooking demonstrations, diabetic education, nutrition counseling and a diabetic-appropriate food basket. The program began in November. Outcome measures being evaluated include diabetic control, nutrition knowledge, self-efficacy, body composition, produce intake, and diabetes burden score.
This fruit & vegetable prescription program provides 4-weeks of nutrition education, cooking demonstration and healthy food baskets to HIV+ clients at Northeast Florida AIDS Network. Outcome measures being evaluated include nutrition knowledge, self-efficacy, produce intake, body composition, compliance with HIV-medications and HIV viral load.
Jacksonville Community Hunger Network
Located in the Center for Nutrition and Food Security, the Network serves as a resource for data and research coordination, a neutral convener for solving complex barriers and a facilitator for collective solutions to inequities in hunger, fresh food access and opportunities for good nutrition. Working collaboratively, the first project the Center and Network is completing is the Hunger Map. The 4-level map is a comprehensive assessment of hunger in the community that serves as a resource for programming, services, advocacy and grants.
- Level 1 is supply of emergency food assistance. Food assistance programs in the community provide data on services available to food insecure individuals and families.
- Level 2 is demand that uses data from Feeding America to calculate demand and meal gap.
- Level 3 is health information. This is a unique level. UNF interviews individuals from the community to determine the health impact of food insecurity.
- Level 4 is affordability and accessibility of food in the community. This is a unique level. UNF conducts this evaluation of affordability and accessibility in the food markets frequented.
Meghan Neimczyk, Director- Northeast Florida Hunger Network