LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK, Aug. 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Stop the Spread (STS), a catalyst for effective hyperlocal pandemic response programs in communities hit hardest by COVID-19, has teamed up with Los Angeles-based Bento and Community Healthcare Network (CHN) of New York to expand an innovative program that leverages vaccination appointments to connect New York's most vulnerable residents with food, healthcare, and social services.

Since May, STS's "Vaccine+" program has expanded to 12 sites across LA and NYC to provide critical wrap-around health and social services to over 3,000 individuals. By utilizing the 15-minute observation period following vaccination, the program provides access to a range of services, including primary care and behavioral health, insurance enrollment, onsite health screenings, food assistance, and utility payment assistance.

In LA, the Vaccine+ program launched in partnership with St. John's Well Child & Family Center and Unite Us has connected over 700 vaccine recipients to insurance and a primary care provider and established over 700 referrals to community-based organizations.

The new Bento-CHN partnership expands the NYC Vaccine+ program, launched in June, to leverage Bento's "food-first" strategy to encourage vaccinations and address underlying nutrition and diabetes-related needs.

"We know people experiencing food insecurity are significantly more likely to develop diabetes or other chronic conditions. Diabetes is an epidemic in NYC that disproportionately impacts communities of color. Our program is designed to reach those hard-to-reach – and hardly reached – community members who need vaccinations and nutrition help," said Adam Dole, Chief Operating Officer at Bento. "Our expansion is built on the success in LA of our food-first strategy for meeting people where they are in a frictionless, stigma-free way."

In LA, Bento and STS connected participants and their families with convenient, nutritious, prepaid meals from nearby restaurants for up to 8 weeks via SMS text messaging. Since May, they have provided more than 360 individuals over 4,000 subsidized meals. The trust built through the text-based platform helped STS connect participants to additional resources including utilities support and insurance enrollment.

Albert Mojarro of East LA received his vaccine at a St. John's vaccination site, where he enrolled in the Vaccine+ program to receive meals through Bento. "First and foremost, I would like to thank you all for helping me get vaccinated. The [Vaccine+] program has helped me and my kids out very much, especially the free meals provided by Bento. I no longer have to worry about how we will get our next meal."

In New York, community members vaccinated at select CHN pop-up events can now receive a free health screening for indicators of diabetes and heart disease. Participants receive results within 10 minutes and consult with an onsite clinician to access follow-up resources through Public Health Solutions, including connections to primary care, insurance, and food services. Individuals with results indicating prediabetes or diabetes can engage in sessions with a CHN nutritionist, who supports with Bento enrollment for access to healthy meals throughout the duration of the program.

"We are working together to not only bring vaccines, but also address one of the most urgent social determinants of health that has been magnified by the pandemic–food insecurity. By going to neighborhoods where both vaccines and food resources are scarce, we are bringing local residents and their families the support they need for their health and wellness," said Dr. Luis Freddy Molano, VP of Infectious Diseases and LGBTQ Programs and Services at CHN.

"CHN's Nutrition Team is elated to work with Stop the Spread and Bento to try new ways of simultaneously addressing health and food security throughout NYC," said Melissa Olson, Director of Nutrition & Wellness for CHN. "Interweaving access to healthy food choices through programs like Bento during nutrition sessions is critical to patient success in reaching their individual health goals. We also appreciate Bento's text reminders that support patients in furthering their health goals–it puts the patient directly in the driver's seat of their own health habits and care."

"Since our founding, Stop the Spread has catalyzed private sector partnerships to meet community needs amid the pandemic," said Stop the Spread Executive Director Sharon Knight. "We're especially proud of the Bento-CHN partnership because it highlights our mission to advance health equity and incorporate wrap-around services for whole person care. It's a collaboration of best practices from coast to coast through our vaccine work and continued innovation with our partners."

About Bento

Bento is an enterprise software platform that helps organizations improve the health outcomes and quality of life of their most vulnerable populations by addressing their most basic human need first: hunger. Bento does this by connecting eligible participants with convenient, nutritious, prepaid meals from nearby sources of food...all through text messaging. With a food-first approach, Bento aims to improve health outcomes and break cycles of poverty and eliminate the chance of food insecurity re-emerging in someone's life. 

About CHN

Community Healthcare Network is a New York City healthcare provider serving more than 80,000 New Yorkers at 14 federally qualified health centers throughout Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, along with a fleet of mobile vans that bring health services to underserved people in need throughout the city. It provides judgment-free, high-quality healthcare, without regard to race, religion, orientation, gender identity, immigration status or ability to pay.

About Stop the Spread

Stop the Spread is a COVID-19 relief nonprofit founded in March 2020 to catalyze the private sector and address shortfalls and fill gaps in our nation's response to the pandemic. To learn more about STS's work, access the STS Playbook for Community-based Vaccinations for best practices and downloadable tools for planning, co-designing, and implementing community-based models that advance vaccine and health equity.

Media Contact: Morrison Shafroth, 1-720-470-3653, mshafroth@peaksstrategies.com

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SOURCE Stop the Spread

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