BRIDGEPORT—Food is an essential need, yet so many people don’t have access to nutritious food. It’s a major health issue, said Bill Hoey, vice president of mission and ethics at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.
“Food insecurity and the need for food is one of our greatest challenges,” he said.
That’s why, for the ninth year in a row, St. Vincent’s is offering the House of Hope, a small shack (not dissimilar to a child’s playhouse) outside the hospital’s main campus at 2800 Main St. Until Nov. 15, people can drop off nutritious, non-perishable food items at the house.
The items will be distributed between five organizations—Port 5 Naval Veterans, the Thomas Merton Center, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Spooner House, Sterling House, and Healthy Choices for Seniors. Of those agencies, only two aren’t in Bridgeport. Spooner House is in Shelton and Sterling House is in Stratford.
The house officially opened for the season on Monday, and Hoey said the goal is to collect at least seven tons of food through the program. Typically, he said, anywhere from five to seven tons are donated.
Over the past few years, Hoey and others associated with the program have put a greater emphasis on collecting nutritious non-perishables, and the hospital is even handing out a list of recommended items to potential donors.
“Not only does this help the recipients, but this also can help the donors by helping them to understand more about what’s considered ‘healthy food,’ ” Hoey said.
For instance, he said, he likes to make chili and, for years, he thought his dish was fairly healthy, because he used lean meats and lots of vegetables, in the form of canned tomatoes and kidney beans. But then someone pointed out that the dish wasn’t as nutritious as he thought, Hoey said.
“It turns out that the sodium content in the red kidney beans I was using was off the charts,” he said.
Though teaching people to read ingredient labels and make healthier choices (such as dried beans instead of canned) is a helpful by-product of the House of Hope, the program’s main goal is to feed people. To that end, the program added a new recipient organization, Healthy Choices for Seniors, which provides food to seniors in Bridgeport and surrounding towns.
Healthy Choices owner Deborah Stokes used to work for Thomas Merton House and was in charge of the pantry there. When she started Healthy Choices, she wanted to provide food help for older clients.
“Many of them are on limited incomes,” she said.
The House of Hope has a slot that is always open for donations.
(For more information, call 475.210.5550.)
By Amanda Cuda | CT Post