Nutrition Disparities in Eastern Maine
As we all navigate through the new “normal” of life pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak, it may seem like it is increasingly difficult to acclimate.
This rings true for everyone, especially as we change our social habits but it can be devastating for those suffering from a cancer diagnosis and treatment during this time.
Their support systems may not be able to be fully present due to social distancing precautions. This is because as cancer patients are treated, they become immunocompromised.
Cancer patients often receive treatment suppressing their immune system. Especially in Eastern Maine, patients tend to be older adults, who are more vulnerable to this virus. The additional burden causes stress, worry, and health concerns beyond their life-threatening cancer diagnosis.
This pandemic has highlighted the health inequities of Eastern Maine residents, notably for those affected by cancer. Though poverty and food insecurity do not cause cancer, they present disproportionate barriers to receiving access to health care.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in the state of Maine. No other state in the nation holds this statistic, offering an unforgettable reminder of the need for stronger preventative and treatment support in Eastern Maine.
Inequitable cancer care is when there is an unfair, avoidable, imbalance in health where other communities are more apt to benefit from services. Equity (personalized support) requires a deeper look at the comprehensive nature of health access because equality (one size fits all) does not always yield an improvement in outcomes (ex: one diet may not be suitable for all, one treatment could be too expensive for some, travel arrangements and needs vary person to person)
Eastern Maine has been struggling greatly with segmented health care through cancer treatment. With the added weight COVID-19 is putting on our public health system, cancer patients will suffer further separation between the lifesaving care they require, with what they’re currently receiving.
We need to continue coming together to help support our most vulnerable members of our community, with an even greater focus on providing equitable care.
Why Continued Nutrition Assistance is Important in Maine
Nutrition is important to all individuals but especially during a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Social distancing and limiting travel is crucial in this time of uncertainty. However, cancer patients and their families have no choice but to travel, upwards to 100 miles one way, to receive the life-saving treatment they need.
There is no other option for these families. Cancer is already the leading cause of death in Maine. COVID-19 only adds concerns to this and proper nutrition is one way to help provide some relief for cancer patients who are already straining other resources to seek treatment and recovery options.
Not only may your appetite change but you may find certain types of food harder to tolerate depending on the treatment you received and cancer you had been diagnosed with.
With this in mind, it is imperative that as a cancer survivor, you are putting nutrition at the forefront of your recovery. Nutrition gives yourself and your body the energy to continue to heal after any treatment and may also allow your body to regain some normalcy over time.
The top reasons nutrition is important for cancer patients are:
- Physical recovery from cancer
- Nutrition gives the body and cells added energy to continue to fight off cancer cells in unison with treatment
- Nutrition helps keep blood sugars and other vital processes functioning correctly
- Proper nutrition can aid against mood changes which may come from a drop in nutrients within the body, leading to feeling worn out or depressed.
Christine B. Foundation Gives Back With Eastern Maine Nutritional Support
From late-March until the current times, The Christine B. Foundation (CBF) has provided over 40,000 meals to residents in Eastern Maine. This pivot came from the needs of our local residents and a program we had already planned to put into creation. COVID-19 made the needs and disparities much more apparent and it was an important addition to the community that CBF was happy to implement.
CBF responded to the additional burdens the COVID-19 virus has on hundreds of active cancer patients residing in Eastern Maine. CBF, in strong partnership with area food banks and volunteers, continues to take action by safely making home deliveries of meals/food items to cancer patients across Piscataquis, Penobscot, Hancock, and Washington County.
There is a growing number of homebound, immunocompromised, patients who are high-risk of the COVID-19 virus yet benefit most from proper nutrition through their treatment. This service will prepare and deliver Grocery Packages to patients in an effort to:
- reduce exposure to the public for the patient and their family
- reduce health risks associated with COVID-19
- reduce the need to travel
- reduces financial burdens
- increases access to a balanced diet through cancer treatment
“The Christine B. Foundation is currently helping me and my family with grocery pickup at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center. We could not be more grateful for their support especially during this time of uncertainty and fear amongst the COVID-19 pandemic. They are helping cancer patients feel safer and are limiting exposure to the virus. THANK YOU!!!”
Plans for Continued Nutrition Support in Eastern Maine
Entering 2020, CBF had anticipated dispersing 1,000 meals through the 12-month period and to continue growing the program with partners. CBF now anticipates a 2,500% increase in meals provided from the initial outline for 2020 (25,000 meals). 85% of recipients are expressing a continued need for nutrition assistance despite additional burdens COVID-19 placed on them.
How to Get Involved with Eastern Maine Nutritional Support
While the Christine B. Foundation continues to grow out the nutrition assistance available in Eastern Maine to support our neighbors, it does not mean you cannot get involved as well. The more people that are aware of the plight of Eastern Mainer’s, the more people we can get involved to help build a better outcome for nutrition assistance and cancer care.
The Christine B. Foundation is always looking for volunteers to help expand the nutrition program and reach more people. Our current needs include volunteer drivers as well as volunteer distribution site volunteers.
These volunteer opportunities ensure the citizens of Eastern Maine affected by cancer have the opportunity to be given nutritional meals that are easily accessible and can help as they navigate treatment and cancer recovery from their homes.
You can see expanded descriptions and requirements for the current volunteer positions listed at http://volunteerme.unitedwayem.org/
Other ways that you can help:
- Outreach to local hospitals in Eastern Maine who may be in need of volunteerism, postcards, or other materials to keep patients healthy–both physically and mentally.
- Research Eastern Maine cancer statistics to become acquainted with the current plight many face. Knowledge is power in creating new solutions from this situation.
- Assist (with precaution) on any delivery support for those around you such as family, neighbors, or friends who may be immunocompromised so they know that errands will be taken care of. Please, assess your own health prior to this commitment.
The Christine B. Foundation is committed to supporting our cancer community during this hard period of time and beyond. Consider your support for CBF to allow us to continue to help create the programs needed to help our most vulnerable members of Eastern Maine.
Learn more by visiting www.chrisbfund.org
We would like to take a moment to thank our partners and sponsors who have helped the Christine B. Foundation’s nutritional support grow.