Willowbrook hospital program addresses food insecurity while providing medical care to patients

WILLOWBROOK, Calif. (KABC) -- Many people are still struggling to put food on the table during the pandemic, but a drive-thru program at a Willowbrook hospital makes sure its neediest patients get what they need.

Twice a month at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center, workers with the L.A. County Department of Health Services pack boxes of a week's worth of food for dozens of patients. The program is also offered at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Along with receiving medical care, part of the conversation between doctors and patients is how they're doing when it comes to food. Do they have enough?

"We'll connect them with our social work team to get them plugged in. We're giving away fresh fruits, we're giving away vegetables, we're giving away dry goods as well," said Dr. Tasha Dixon.

Doctors say they make sure to exercise compassion because they understand some patients may find it difficult to ask for help to feel themselves and their families.

"We acknowledge that it could be hard for someone to acknowledge that there are challenges with feeding their families," the hospital's Charmaine Dorsey said. "So there's sensitivity around that, empathy around that and real tangible support. We do our best at trying to broach that in a sensitive way."

The food boxes are delivered to patients, like Loretta Hartfield, who aren't able to pick it up themselves. She says it has been a tremendous help.

"I'm very thankful for the program as I'm sure as others are. It's well needed," Hartfield said. "In this... pandemic, things have shut down, closed down, locked up and it's hard on families."

Because of the greater need for similar programs, there are plans to expand the program to other parts of the county to include the Antelope and San Gabriel valleys.
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