In December the logistics were sorted and we were thrilled to launch our inaugural Full Heart Food Cart at Randall Children’s Hospital. The Full Heart Food Cart is a new program that brings fresh, healthy, nutritious food directly to inpatient NICU families at our partner hospitals in order to build peer relationships and strengthen inpatient community.
Hospital care schedules, family expectations, and even unit design can create obstacles to comfort, adequate nourishment, and privacy for NICU parents. The Full Heart Food Cart is designed to bring inpatient NICU parents together in a convenient location that allows them to connect with peers without having to leave the bedside for long stretches.
As parents of medically fragile babies, it can be a genuine challenge to manage self-care. Prioritizing themselves ahead of their newborn is counterintuitive, and even regular reminders from staff are often dismissed as unrealistic. To further complicate matters, healthy, fresh food can be cost-prohibitive and hard to find in a hospital environment.
Through this program, NICU Families Northwest provides the opportunity for inpatient parents to grab a snack or sit down for a healthy meal in community with their unit peers. Graduate parents are on hand to stimulate conversation and offer insight and words of comfort- providing a low-pressure environment for organic peer-support. This service is especially helpful for parents in units without private rooms, hospitals that are more remotely located away from convenient or affordable food options, and low-income families whose NICU-related expenses are a strain.
Before the end of December, we provided the Full Heart Food Cart to Randall Children’s Hospital on two occasions and once to parents at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) just before the New Year. NICU Families Northwest is working diligently to provide this service on a monthly basis to each Partner NICU we currently serve.
Launching the Full Heart Food Cart would not have been possible without the generous support of the Deacon Charitable Foundation. NICU Families Northwest was a 2017 recipient of grant funding from DCF specifically to in support of this community-building program, and we are incredibly grateful for their contribution.