Delivering Healing in a Whole New Way: Mobile Food Pantry Helps Pave Path for Vaccine Distribution to Vulnerable Populations
Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) partnered with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (RWJ Hamilton) to bring vaccines directly into neighborhoods with the most vulnerable populations and fewest resources to access available vaccine options.
On March 19, The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry went out along with a RWJ Hamilton mobile vaccine team to Architects Housing in Trenton, a senior low-income housing apartment, for a pilot run of this new partnership where they provided the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 65 individuals. The joint team returned on April 9 to administer the second dose of the vaccine.
“As the vaccine started to roll out, I considered how we might be able to utilize our Mobile Food Pantry, which has built in refrigeration and freezer units, to help distribute the vaccine to individuals who were having trouble accessing available sites,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “We approached RWJ Hamilton as we’ve partnered with them in the past for successful programs and knew they could be the resource for vaccine distributions.”
While RWJ Hamilton handles the transport of the vaccine by its own team, the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry has an important presence the day of vaccinations. The mobile pantry arrives along with the RWJ team and JFCS staff helped organize the vaccination process, assisted those receiving vaccines, and distributed breakfast bags to recipients.
“Architects Housing has become a regular distribution site for our mobile pantry,” says Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “We first connected with their site in June 2020 and have since made monthly, sometimes even bi-monthly stops, as needed by their residents.”
“The presence of our mobile pantry, a trusted, welcome resource to the Architects Housing residents, was really important on the day of vaccinations,” added Napell. “We continue to see in the news how low-income populations, especially older adults, are hitting every obstacle to accessing vaccines – from not having internet access to sign up, to lacking transportation to vaccine sites, to being missed by communications coming from state and local levels about vaccine safety and availability. The presence of our pantry and our team, a familiar and reliable resource, helped make the vaccine experience as easy as possible for the recipients.”
JFCS and RWJ Hamilton are discussing other locations where they can replicate the vaccine and mobile pantry partnership at other locations.
“We have partnerships with many organizations, institutions, and housing developments that work with those who currently quality for vaccine but lack the resources to get connected with sites. We hope our connections can be an in-road to RWJ Hamilton reaching these individuals,” said Napell.