Creating a One-Stop Food Hub

Volunteers delivering food in a drive-through line.

Eleanor Wertman — community health program manager at UNC Health Alliance, a physician-led network in North Carolina that aims to provide high-quality, holistic care to patients — had a plan for the spring and summer of 2020.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

With Wertman’s original home visiting program no longer a safe option, she reached out to and eventually partnered with Alice Ammerman, the director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. In late July, Wertman, Ammerman and their extensive list of local partners launched the Chatham Food Hub.

This food hub allowed customers to electronically place meal orders from local sources and pick them up from staff donning masks and gloves at a drive-through location.

“It has been a delight joining forces with Eleanor to apply our public health skills and our passion for community engagement,” said Ammerman. “We are definitely on the same wavelength in terms of striving to help stimulate a sustainable community-owned and run effort to address food insecurity and job loss in a part of the state hard hit by [COVID-19].”

Wertman and Ammerman, alongside a team of researchers, plan to study the impacts of the hub on food insecurity and jobs and use their newfound knowledge to create a sustainable model that can be used in other areas of North Carolina.

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