The Haven is known for going the extra mile to provide for those in need with what most of us believe are basic necessities. These needs (food, shelter, problem-solving, and information) are often taken for granted. But think for a moment if another layer of difficulty is added to the mix: can you imagine worrying about your next meal while preparing to have a baby and actively working to treat an addiction? In this light, Haven staff Jennifer Fontaine and Kristen Coats have worked with Daisy Goodman and her team at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to form a partnership that makes additional resources for prenatal and postpartum women in crisis more accessible in the Upper Valley.
After thorough discussions with DHMC, a site visit to a model pantry and kitchen at Boston Medical Center, and surveying of social services agencies and Haven patrons, an on-site food pantry was launched in November 2016 at the site of DHMC’s Perinatal Addiction Treatment Program. Mothers in recovery (both expecting and postpartum) attend an intensive outpatient opioid addiction replacement program in Lebanon. DHMC serves 45 – 60 men and women in recovery there daily. The food shelf hosted by the Haven is modest in size, but has opened the door to providing valuable, reliable nutrition to complement the comprehensive treatment provided through the program. Key to the initiative is the co-located service; mothers can make one stop for their treatment and to access healthy food.
After the launch, the program expanded in January 2017 to provide daily grab-and-go healthy snacks and weekly prepared takeaway meals. Hunger was identified as a barrier to being fully present in the recovery program sessions and sparked the idea to create high-protein, nutrient-dense snacks—important for a healthy pregnancy—that would be available at each group appointment. A third component, meals in takeaway tins, were introduced to allow women to take prepared meals home with them in addition to fresh produce and non-perishable foods. Haven staff and volunteers gather pantry items and prep snacks and meals weekly for delivery to DHMC.
This behind-the-scenes program has seen success in a short period of time, however Kristen and the team look forward to developing it further. They have learned from focus groups at the perinatal clinic that the women are interested in cooking lessons and using more spices in their meal preparation, and hope to add these elements in the near future.