SIH Community Benefits, SIH Population Health, and the Jackson County Health Department are “putting their money where their mouths are” to reduce gaps in services to some of Southern Illinois’ most rural populations. Translated, this means utilizing partnerships to create a better communications’ network at both the newly-created Southern Illinois Food Pantry Network and the Healthy Southern Illinois Delta Network.

Securing $1,500 in Telligen Community Initiative grant funding, McKendree University partnered with the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Illinois public health departments serving rural populations, the Illinois Public Health Association, the Illinois Nurses Foundation, and the Southern Illinois Public Health Consortium to bring this food pantry capacity-building program to fruition.

“The goal of this project to help reduce health disparities by increasing access to services that address the prevention and management of chronic diseases,” said Michelle McLernon of the Jackson County Health Department. “The plan will enlist SIFPN to support the delivery of services and sharing of resources to pantry clients, to develop an online menu of community resources available to support food pantries, to identify and collate a list of existing resources, coordinate service delivery of those resources, provide education and

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skill-building to better manage health behaviors, provide resources that support population health needs, and facilitate communication between SIFPN and HSIDN.”

The TCI concept plan, derived from a foundational academic/public health partnership partially funded by the INF, allows SIH to partner with an area public health department – in this case, the Jackson County Health Department – to create a dyad. This dyad then works together with a McKendree University MSN Population Health student to create a plan to address a specific health issue for the population it serves.

The McKendree University MSN Population Health student will serve as a member of the HSIDN/SIFPN Partnership, collaborating to develop an adaptable communication mechanism that will facilitate efficient and effective sharing of resources, services, and information across all sectors. The student will also receive guidance from participating agencies and food pantry leaders through attendance at quarterly SIFPN meetings, as well as meetings of HSIDN members actively participating in the food pantry initiative.

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