A longstanding commitment
The American Heart Association steps up to support Philadelphia during the pandemic.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought inequities in health access and quality to the forefront. Communities of color, both in Philadelphia and across the country, have been disproportionately impacted in terms of mortality and the loss of livelihoods.
To meet the dire need, the Pennsylvania branch of the American Heart Association has increased efforts to provide resources to areas in Philadelphia that lack access to healthy food, knowing that many of the residents are essential workers who may be more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus.
The AHA has partnered with anti-hunger organizations to provide over twenty thousand healthy meals to families in North and West Philadelphia. Many of these meals have been distributed to families in the Fairhill and Hunting Park neighborhoods, where more than half the population identifies as Latinx.
This is part of a longstanding commitment to Latinx communities. In 2019, eighty patients of Congreso Health Center participated in an eight-month-long “Eat to Live” program featuring cooking and nutrition education and behavioral health counseling. This curriculum empowers communities by giving them access to information about making healthy choices for themselves and their families.
“I want to give thanks to each person that has dedicated themselves to this activity because it helps us eat healthier like our ancestors did,” a program participant said. “It fills me with so much pride to see that in this country, where life is fast, there are people that dedicate themselves to doing this kind of work.”
Given the success of this program, its model is being used to inform future programs at Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout Philadelphia.
AHA’s goal is to create sustainable impacts in historically under-resourced neighborhoods of Philadelphia. That’s why the AHA has worked to help build infrastructure into city food pantries by providing industrial freezers which help to keep food fresher longer and reach more residents over time.
Through its longstanding relationship with Sanctuary Farms, an urban farm in North Philadelphia, thousands of bags of produce and educational materials are distributed to residents. The expansion of this work in 2021 will lead to an innovative “Food Rx” program that allows physicians to prescribe healthy fruits and vegetables to patients with hypertension (also known as high blood pressure).
Helping people understand the nutritional value of their food and empowering low-income communities to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices is also the motivation behind “Healthy for Life”, a free cooking program in partnership with Aramark, the Health Promotion Council and the Free Library of Philadelphia. The next session is on Tuesday, March 2nd. To register, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/healthy-for-life-at-your-library-tuesdays-bilingual-tickets-138009374755. The first fifteen participants for each lesson will receive an electronic gift card to cover grocery costs.
The AHA has long been advocating for a future where ZIP code does not determine health, and where healthy choices are equitable and accessible. Now more than ever, the importance of the organization’s mission is clear.