Improving Access to Healthy Food, One Box at a Time

Erie Family Health Center (Erie FHC) sees roughly 82,000 patients annually, 83% of whom live in low-income households. Improving the health of a patient population that is majority low-income has its challenges because while access to care is not an obstacle for Erie’s patients, resources outside of the doctor’s office that help improve health can still be difficult to encounter. Fortunately, Erie Family Health Center understands that support outside of the exam room is critical in ensuring the wellbeing of patients. Erie runs many different health promotion programs and as a health educator, I facilitate several of these programs that range from breast cancer support groups to classes that offer discounted car seats.

One of my favorite programs that I work on is Erie’s foods program. Erie began a new partnership with the non-profit Top Box Foods at the West Town, Humboldt Park, and Division Street/Teen Center locations in September. Top Box Foods works to provide healthy, affordable food to people living in all parts of Chicago, regardless of income. Top Box offers roughly seventeen different boxes of food monthly, ranging from chicken breast boxes, to sirloin steak and vegetable boxes. The boxes of food cost roughly forty percent less than what patients would pay at the supermarket for the same quantity and quality of food.

Bringing Top Box to three of Erie’s twelve locations has been a great success. Patients and community members are able to order boxes, and over one hundred and fifty boxes of food are picked up monthly at our Erie Division Street location! By partnering with Top Box, Erie FHC is now able to provide patients with the resources to buy healthy food that is for once affordable. I regularly speak with patients who voice frustration over how nutritious foods are expensive, and how it is usually more economical to buy cheaper, unhealthy foods to feed their families. I love introducing patients to our Top Box program because Top Box provides patients with access to healthy, affordable food. Top Box is breaking down barriers and bringing healthy food into neighborhoods that are food deserts.

This month of February will be Erie’s sixth month partnering with Top Box. The program has already seen great success, and I look forward to seeing how the partnership will evolve to reach more patients and community members in the upcoming months. Working with the Erie FHC staff and the staff at Top Box has been a rewarding experience. The staff are focused and committed to reaching out to as many patients and community members as possible, and to bringing high quality food to areas of Chicago that are considered food deserts. If you would like to learn more information about Top Box, or would like to volunteer with the organization, go to www.topboxfoods.com.


This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2016-17 member Georgia Hutchins.

Georgia is a Health Educator at Erie Family Health Center - West Town amd Humboldt Park.