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CLEVELAND (WJW) – A new program is being launched with the goal of helping mothers through delivery and beyond. 

The Nourishing Beginnings program at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank comes at a critical time, as inflation prohibits some families from purchasing the right foods to remain healthy.

“We’re working together to get food support to women at high risk of poor birth outcomes,” said Alissa Glenn, Director of Community Health and Nutrition at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Cleveland’s child poverty rate is among the highest of large cities in the U.S., with one in five children living in poverty across the food bank’s service area.

Program coordinators said they will work with expecting mothers through six months postpartum. Enrollment in the program began this week.

WJW photo

“In particular we’re looking at people who are at high risk of poor birth outcomes,” said Glenn. “We have very high rates of infant mortality in our region. We also have very high inequitable rates. So women who are African-American and are anywhere from four to seven times more likely to have their child die within the first year.”

According to First Year Cleveland, a partner of the program, 13,204 babies were born in Cuyahoga County in 2020, 101 of those babies died in their first year of life. First Year Cleveland reports 73%of those babies were African American from all socio-economic levels.

In order to better address inequitable birth outcomes, the program will enroll mothers in one of two groups. The first group will receive home delivered food every other week. A second group will get cash to grocery shop on their own at the same interval.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is serving more people now than prior to the pandemic. Inflation and the rising cost of food continues to squeeze wallets. A spokesperson said on average people are spending $340 dollars a month more on cost of living expenses.

Participants enrolled will also get assistance with needed kitchen appliances, recipes in addition to training on how to navigate finding nutrition resources.

“We’re not just looking at food shortage, but also what we can provide in a home, so we’re looking at also stoves and refrigerators,” said Christine Lattiemore with Better Health Partnership.

The financial assistance available comes after the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the additional spotlight on food-insecure families across the country.

“We know that nutrition is critical to a healthy pregnancy, but we also know the role of stress is really significant when it comes to those outcomes, so we’re hoping that with this program we’re combining both food support and social support,” said Glenn.

As a part of the research study, 124 people will be enrolled. The new initiative is the result of partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, Better Health Partnership, First Year Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.