Heartland Health made a donation to the Second Harvest Community Food Bank on Wednesday.

The $65,000 check equates to 250,000 pounds of fresh produce, to enable the local organization to serve the Backpack Buddies program, Fresh Start and regional fresh produce distribution programs.

The hospital’s board of trustees approved the donation following a community health needs assessment. The Internal Revenue Service set new requirements for nonprofit hospitals, which included the assessment.

After numerous surveys and visiting with the community, Heartland found that mental health services, adult and childhood obesity and education on health and health resources were the top three community needs.

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions and has become one of the main focuses for the hospital. And it is a direct correlation of not eating healthy foods.

“We weren’t surprised,” said Dr. Mark Laney, president and chief executive officer at Heartland. “We know that nutrition is key. And unfortunately for too many of our residents, fresh fruits and vegetables are out of their price range.”

Often times, families have no other option but to turn to less expensive, high-calorie options at the store.

“We saw an opportunity to change the tide with the food bank (donation),” Dr. Laney said.

The donation will allow the food bank to continue its programs. Fresh apples and carrots can be put in backpacks for school children, said Chad Higdon, executive director at Second Harvest.

“You’re building a mentality for those kids that they can value and appreciate,” he said.

Jennifer Hall can be reached at jenn.hall@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHall.

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