Humana Foundation invests $1 million to improve East Tennesseans’ health

Local News

The Humana Foundation announced Friday a $1 million investment to InterFaith Health Clinic in Knoxville as part of its Truck2Table program to help address social determinants of health. InterFaith Health Clinic, which serves lower income families without health insurance, is now aiming to provide healthy food for their patients.

The foundation, the philanthropic division of Humana Inc., says it wants to invest in programs focused on decreasing barriers and obstacles to good health. The goal is to improve the health of the communities Humana serves by 20 percent by the year 2020.

Walter Woods, Humana Foundation CEO, says they were drawn to this project because it was collaborative. It involves a for-profit technology company, Catapult 4D, and includes software for the clinic to link up with food vendors and it will also serve as an ordering tool for customers. 

Interfaith’s Executive Director, Melissa Knight, says this is about crossing the finish line. Knight touted their efforts to build a kitchen three years ago to education their patients, but says this actually enables patients to buy the recommended ingredients.

“When 90 percent of your patient load is making minimum wage, the opportunity to buy healthy food just does not exist,” she said. 

She says the technology will help them stream line their different food sources and vendors and help them with their packaging goals of including healthy recipes. 

The project is in in the “starting conversations” phase, Knight says, and it could take a year to square away the final details. Ultimately, she hopes to extend the service to anyone who qualifies, not just patients at the clinic. They currently have more than 8,500. The money from Humana is renewable for two additional years. While it’s going to setting the infrastructure of the project, more funding will be needed for it to work long-term, Knight said. Knight also says anyone interested in a progress report should reach out in between 8-10 months. 

Robin Collins is a former patient at InterFaith Health. Today, she has her own insurance but attended the check presentation ceremony Friday because she credits their food education program to her new lifestyle. She’s lost 155 altogether and says the last 55, and the lasting change in her lifestyle, is thanks to classes offered by the clinic. 

Despite her success with the program, she says buying the healthier foods isn’t easy.

“The elderly and the poor go for the junk food, the cokes and stuff. They run them on sale and they can make them stretch, but the fresh foods are not out there for the less fortunate to get,” Collins said. 

She’s still a type two diabetic and takes medication for high blood pressure; however, she says the weight loss has enabled her to take lower dosage for the high blood pressure and it’s a trend she hopes will continue as she isn’t reverting back to her old eating habits. 

The weight loss has also given her more self esteem. She thinks helping others get access to those less fortunate families will help them feel pride and self-esteem and even encourage them to get out more. 

“The Bible says plant a seed and it will grow. I believe in planting a seed and it will grow somewhere else and what it’s all about is helping these people who cannot afford healthy food,” Collins said about the project. 

Six other communities are also receiving $1 million grants which are renewable in 2019 and 2020.

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