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HUNTINGTON — Thanks to a Facing Hunger Foodbank program, health care patients are maintaining a healthy diet.

The food bank supports patients in need of meals to support their health with the Medically Indicated Food Box Program on a monthly basis. On Thursday afternoon, volunteers gave boxes to patients near St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Cyndi Kirkhart, the CEO of Facing Hunger, said the boxes have food such as beef, produce and low- or no-sodium canned food. The food bank also includes some canned foods for emergency hunger relief.

“We understand that they need to be able to support their diets,” Kirkhart said.

Some of the clients who use the food box program have diabetes, hypertension, end-stage renal disease or other health issues. Kirkhart said one great benefit for patients who receive food each month is that they are able to stick to a healthy diet, meaning their overall health improves. Some patients have their emergency room visits reduced.

Kirkhart said the food box program also distributes food at other health care locations. The program is supported by a grant from the Pallottine Foundation, which will end this fall.

Velma Workman, the director of strategic development for Facing Hunger, said the food bank is looking for other grants or donors to continue the Medically Indicated Food Box Program.

“Fundraising is extremely important so that we can give back to our community in this fashion,” Workman said. “It’s exciting to hear them say, ‘Hey, my numbers were up this week.’ It’s a blessing to be able to do that.”

Nurses, doctors and other health care employees help the food bank in distributing the food each month. On Thursday, Trina Burton, who is a social worker at St. Mary’s Outpatient Clinic, was present and said the program makes a huge difference to the patients she works with.

“If it wasn’t for fresh fruit and vegetables, a lot of our patients wouldn’t get that,” Burton said. “That’s not something that they can just go and afford to get as opposed to just getting their necessities each month. It’s been a blessing.”

McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @mckennahorsley.

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