Establishing a Hospital Based Food Pantry for Oncology Patients in Need: Better Outcomes Through Better Nutrition

Board Certified PA Marlo Dombroff and her team at Stony Brook Medical Center established an on-site Cancer Center food pantry to address food insecurity by improving access to nutritious foods and nutrition education for oncology patients in Stony Brook, New York.

Dombroff set her work in a larger context: “The Cancer Center food pantry is representative of my personal philosophy as a PA. I have always believed in looking at each patient in his/her entirety, not just their illness.  As busy health care practitioners, it is too easy to overlook the importance of social determinants of health when trying to make a patient ‘better’”.

Having coordinated with hospital administration and community partners, the food pantry fully opened in June 2023; and in its first six months, the pantry distributed nearly 4,000 pounds of food to more than 150 patients in over 230 visits.

Volunteers staff the food pantry Monday through Friday; and many volunteers are students pursuing careers in medicine, nursing, social work, and related fields.  Volunteers also participate in data collection efforts to track the pantry’s impact, engage in research projects, and support efforts to scale-up the pantry to reach additional patients.

Dombroff noted strong community support, including food drive donations from local schools, sports teams, clubs, parent groups, libraries, neighborhoods, and businesses.

To supplement that support, Dombroff secured recognition of the food pantry as a member agency of the Island Harvest Food Bank, which ensures the pantry will remain fully stocked.  The pantry’s sustainability has been further assured by the receipt of additional funding from a local endowment.

Through Dombroff and her team’s efforts, they have already raised awareness of food insecurity for thousands of community members and are directly impacted hundreds of patients.  Hear Dombroff share more about her experience here.

She added, “As PAs, it is our responsibility to find creative solutions to remove barriers so that all patients can receive equitable health care. Progress can only happen when we choose to be leaders; I’m proud to fulfill this role as a PA.”

The Health Foundation is glad to support this initiative that seeks to address food insecurity for oncology patients through the Kathy J. Pedersen Grant to Promote Equitable Care.

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