Grant enables UAB Hospital staff to feed underprivileged moms of newborns

UAB Hospital staff hopes gift will jump-start program that will continue to provide food for families in need during their child’s hospital stay.

A grant awarded to the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama on behalf of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Women and Infants Center Regional Newborn Intensive Care Unit will enable hospital staff to provide adequate amounts of food to underprivileged moms breastfeeding during their newborn’s hospital stay.

WIC foodbank-6 sThe Little Giraffe Foundation gave a four-month grant of $1,000 to UAB in September, and the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama has delivered approximately 400 pounds of food every two weeks.

Sandra Milstead, a registered nurse in the Women and Infants Center, said the food deliveries help make a tremendous difference for the babies who remain in the hospital after the mother has been discharged.

“Families who have a baby requiring a long hospital stay after his or her birth can incur large expenses, but the reality is that staying with the baby while hospitalized is what is best for mother and child; it’s what we encourage,” Milstead said. “Unfortunately, we have some families we care for who don’t have the means to purchase food regularly, and that can be quite expensive if you’re eating out two or three times a day. We wanted to do something to serve these families, and we couldn’t be happier to have this opportunity.”

WIC foodbank-17 sThe March of Dimes provides hot lunches twice a week to underprivileged moms who stay with their babies in the hospital. Beyond that, moms have to provide their own meals. This new program lessens the burden on the mom at a time of high stress.

The hospital-based pantry is the first of its kind for the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, says Mary Michael Kelly, director of the food clearinghouse. The food bank serves more than 225 agencies in 12 counties in central Alabama and distributes approximately 7.5 million pounds of food each year. The food bank delivered 400 pounds of food on one recent trip at 13 cents per pound — a total of $45 spent.

“The $1,000 will provide a lot of food,” Kelly said. “The seeds for this program were really planted back in the spring when I ran into Sandra at a March for Babies event. Sandra told me she believed there was a real need for this program for some of her patients. We submitted for this grant, and the Little Giraffe Foundation agreed that the need was great.”

Milstead says there are some families who have to stay in the hospital for weeks because of health issues with their newborn baby. Many come from throughout the state to UAB Hospital to receive care.

WIC foodbank-12 sA profile of hunger, poverty and federal nutrition programs by the Food Research and Action Center shows that many of Alabama’s underprivileged struggle for food on a daily basis. The center’s yearly report, updated in September, showed that an average of 17.9 percent of Alabama households were food-insecure from 2010-2013, meaning that the household did not always know where they would find their next meal.

The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama has helped fight against this with its Weekenders Backpack Program, which discreetly distributes backpacks of food to students in need to take home for the weekend or holiday. UAB is following a similar path with its program.

Milstead evaluates the needs of patients with social workers each Monday and Thursday. Parents who are staying with their babies in-house are given bags of groceries that will provide breakfast and lunch for them each day.

The hope is that the program will grow and sustain itself long-term.

“Our goal is to eventually make this like the Backpack Program,” Milstead said. “That’s a well-funded program, and we hope that this generous gift from the Little Giraffe Foundation will lead to a much larger grant from contributors who see just how big a need this is for our area.”