St. Luke’s University Health Network’s new Summer Meals Program in Allentown achieved its goal of making sure local children had access to nutritious lunches during the summer months.
Throughout the summer, the program provided a total of 765 free meals to children and teens ages 18 and younger who were in need. The growth in popularity of the Summer Meals Program is evident in the increase in participation by month. In June, the program distributed 85 meals; that number grew to 277 in July and to 403 in August.
“Overall, the Summer Meals Program was very successful. The families enjoyed the meals and the time spent with SLUHN staff and volunteers,” said Ellen Denizard, community health liaison manager, Community Health and Preventive Medicine.
“You can see the increase in numbers over the summer months, which is a testament to the quality of the program. We hope to improve on it next year.”
In addition to the meals, 156 community-supported agriculture shares were given out to families who have little access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and 194 backpacks full of non-perishable food items were distributed to help feed families over the weekends.
St. Luke’s Summer Meals Program was created in response to the Network’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, which found that more than 75 percent of students who live within a one-mile radius from the Sacred Heart campus in Allentown are eligible for reduced-cost or free lunches during the school year. When school let out, however, these children were at risk of going hungry during the summer.
St. Luke’s also provided the children and their families with a range of free offerings, including healthy cooking demonstrations, dental hygiene services and art activities. In addition, the nurse and patient coordinator from the Mobile Health Clinics were able to connect families who were in medical need to Star Wellness, a local health center that is affiliated with St. Luke's and which provides comprehensive well and sick primary care, OB/GYN, dental and pediatric health services to the surrounding communities and medically underserved.
The Summer Meals Program received a boost from donations from several business partners. West Side Hammer Electric made a generous gift of $10,000 to support program enhancements and supply the backpacks of food that children took home each Friday to eat over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo - a valuable partner of St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus - contributed an additional $2,000 to the Summer Meals Program.
Additionally, Crayola donated supplies to fill back-to-school backpacks, and The Baum School of Art in Allentown sponsored an art project on the final day of the program.
Thanks to these gifts and the work of St. Luke’s to strengthen its community, the children who participated in the Summer Meals Program enjoyed healthy lunches and a head-start on the new school year.
About St. Luke’s
Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 15,000 employees providing services at 10 hospitals and 300 outpatient sites. With annual net revenue greater than $2 billion, the Network’s service area includes 11 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the Lehigh Valley’s first and only regional medical school campus. It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 34 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 263 residents and fellows. St. Luke’s is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system with Medicare’s five- and four-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital. In 2019, three of IBM Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals were St. Luke’s hospitals. St. Luke’s University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health seven times total and five years in a row. St. Luke’s has also been cited by IBM Watson Health as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Program. Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.