Legacy in the News: Clinic brings patients healthy food from My Street Grocery

The Oregonian, OPB’s Think Outloud, KOIN Local 6, KGW NewsChannel 8, KATU News

July 4, 2013
As registered nurse Debbie McKissack explained proper nutrition to a diabetic patient, the woman became frustrated.

"You're talking about a rich man's diet," she told McKissack. "I buy food in cans that are dented."

For McKissack that was a sobering splash of reality -- one providers at Legacy Medical Group – Good Samaritan in Northwest Portland grapple with daily; 18 percent of their patients are low-income or homeless, limiting access to proper nutrition.

"You can't treat patients without addressing food and housing," McKissack says.

So LMG – Good Samaritan is bringing nutrition to its patients. With a $6,500 Good Samaritan Foundation grant, the clinic is giving patients vouchers to spend at My Street Grocery, a pop-up store that sells affordable local and organic food.

On Tuesdays, starting with the launch last week, My Street Grocery will be in the Legacy parking lot at Northwest Northrup and 23rd Avenue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Anyone can shop there; the shop accepts cash, credit card and food stamps, as well as Legacy vouchers. Dieticians will also be on hand to help patients pick the right foods.

My Street Grocery racks are stacked with produce from local and organic suppliers, like Organically Grown Company and Kruger's Farm Market, as well as national brands of natural products, like Adams Peanut Butter and Izze Sparkling Juice. It also provides recipes so shoppers know what to do with less common offerings like rhubarb or kale.

The produce is low-priced in part because of the shop's low overhead, and in part because Pape buys only seasonal produce. She doesn't always stock the same items, but when avocados and tomatoes are on the shelf, they're 50 cents each.

"The reality is, money is a real issue for our patients," says Scott Dillinger, a social worker at Legacy.

Many of their patients have $200 in food stamps for a month, he says. Homeless patients who eat at soup kitchens have limited options. And oftentimes options are high in low-cost carbohydrates -- e.g. the classic spaghetti feed with garlic bread -- which is the opposite diet required to manage conditions like diabetes.

"Our patients want access," Dillinger says. "This is one hurdle we can overcome for them."

On Tuesday a woman admired My Street Grocery's berries on her way out of the clinic. Dillinger asked her if she was going to buy them. She couldn't afford them, she said. He gave her $15 in Legacy vouchers and she walked away with a bag of produce.

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