Premier Health to Contribute $30,000 to Wesley Community Center

DAYTON, Ohio (Aug. 15, 2018) – As part of its continued effort to address food insecurity in West Dayton, Premier Health has committed $30,000 toward the expansion of food services provided by the Wesley Community Center. This funding is part of the health system’s Community Benefits program.

Wesley has been engaged in an ongoing community project to renovate its food pantry to create a Food Resource Center that will include a walk-in refrigeration unit and freezers to improve the quality and amount of food available. When renovations are completed later this year, Premier Health’s donation will allow Wesley to purchase a refrigeration unit to stock much-needed fruits and vegetables, said Wesley Community Center Executive Director Yvette Kelly-Fields.

The contribution is consistent with Premier Health’s investment of approximately $13 million since 2003 to revitalize neighborhoods in Northwest Dayton through the Phoenix Project. Additionally, Premier Health recently has committed up to $10 million toward continued revitalization efforts through the Phoenix Next project.

“Premier Health is passionate about our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, and addressing hunger is a key component of that mission,” said Premier Health President and CEO Mary Boosalis. “We have great faith in the Wesley Community Center’s dedication to develop a Food Resource Center that will improve the community’s access to fresh food, and are pleased to support this project.”

Wesley serves an area that faces many obstacles in accessing healthful, nutritious food. The United States Department of Agriculture designates the area as low-income and low access – a “food desert.”

“Poverty is a significant barrier to affording high-quality produce, dairy, poultry, and meat,” said Premier Health Chief Nursing Officer Peggy Mark, who is a champion for the health system’s hunger initiatives. “It is crucial that Premier Health serve the community by addressing hunger. Providing nutritional food choices is critical to reducing the incidence of diabetes and obesity, as well as related heart disease.”

Wesley’s new Food Resource Center will feature additional space devoted to groceries, open shelving for people to select the food items that meet their needs, a large walk-in refrigeration unit, and smaller freezer units. Additionally, the food pantry will offer nutritional information, recipes, and information regarding diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The center’s goal in establishing a Food Resource Center in West Dayton is to increase the number of individuals served by 40 percent, and to expand the number of food pantry users who become involved in ongoing education, employment and case management services by 10 percent.

“Ultimately, we want to see people making healthier food choices and connect with community services, such as adult education, employment assistance and case management, to increase their income and reduce need for food assistance,” said Yvette Kelly-Fields.

Operating out of an aging building for more than 50 years, Wesley has had only a very small area for the pantry with no sufficient refrigeration capacity to provide fresh produce and other healthy options. As a result, most families receive only canned and boxed food donations from the Dayton Food Bank, the center’s largest food provider.

Last year, Wesley served an unduplicated count of 7,639 people – most of whom were single mothers with children. All those served live at or below 200 percent of the poverty level, and most are well below 100 percent of poverty. Families receive a five-day supply of food and some households needed to request food more than once during the year. Thus, Wesley provided groceries that created more than 110,430 meals for food insecure people in West Dayton and Western Montgomery County.

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