Wayne County commissioners and The Wright Center collaborate on new hunger-fighting initiative

The Wayne County commissioners and The Wright Center for Community Health have teamed up to expand access in two rural locations to free, nutritious food for individuals and families facing food insecurity and hunger.

The county’s Food Pantry Program recently began supplying nonperishable items to two of The Wright Center’s primary and preventive care clinics: Hawley and North Pocono.

Clinic employees will hand out the county-provided food boxes – each containing about 25 pounds of shelf-stable items such as soups, pasta, canned vegetables, tuna, and chicken – to patients who disclose on intake forms that they are in need. In addition, the clinics will periodically promote and hold larger-scale distribution events, called pop-up food pantries, during which boxes will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis to patients and members of the broader community.

The next pop-up food pantry at the Hawley Practice, 103 Spruce St., is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25. Volunteers from The Wright Center will coordinate the event and dole out the boxes. For more information about The Wright Center’s pop-up food pantries, contact Holly Przasnyski, director of The Wright Center for Patient & Community Engagement, at, or call 570-209-3275.

Wayne County residents who utilize The Wright Center for Community Health North Pocono Practice, 260 Daleville Highway, Suite 103, Covington Township, are also eligible to receive county-provided food boxes.

Holly P

Holly Przasnyski

“We are so appreciative of commissioners Brian Smith, Jocelyn Cramer, and James Shook for seeing the value in using our Wright Center practices as distribution sites and for generously contributing via the county’s Food Pantry Program to enable us to provide this service to vulnerable individuals and their families,” said Holly Przasnyski, director of The Wright Center for Patient & Community Engagement.

The Wright Center’s hunger-fighting initiative in Wayne County supplements the county’s existing Food Pantry Program, sponsored by the county government and coordinated by private citizens. The program distributes U.S. Department of Agriculture items and private food donations each month at five sites.

“It is important to use funds wisely and target the need as best we can,” said Commissioner Cramer. “We are grateful that the Wright Center can help identify those that need this assistance and help them. No one with food insecurities can overcome health challenges, financial challenges, and employment challenges. We are grateful to the Wright Center for this extra support.”

Through the new arrangement, The Wright Center will be able to offer extra support and convenience to families who are struggling to afford quality foods for their tables, Przasnyski said.

She said that food assistance requests from under-resourced individuals, including senior citizens, have risen locally and nationally since May when the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended. Experts attribute the increased demand for food banks and related charitable programs to the federal government’s rollback of certain pandemic-era health and food benefits, such as emergency allotments to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

About one out of every 20 households receiving SNAP benefits experienced food insufficiency after this year’s discontinuation of emergency allotments, according to a study released in August by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Elsewhere, researchers have previously done studies linking food insufficiency with poor health outcomes, identifying it as a potential contributor to chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

These and other health impacts that people experience due to certain social and economic conditions are a prime focus of Przasnyski and others involved with The Wright Center for Patient & Community Engagement, known as PCE.

As a subsidiary of the nonprofit health center, PCE strives to help people in Northeast Pennsylvania overcome food insecurity and other non-medical issues that can affect their ability to focus on achieving and maintaining their maximum wellness. Those issues commonly include transportation barriers, lack of access to educational opportunities, homelessness, and poverty.

In rural Wayne County, where transportation and other quality-of-life issues require broad-based solutions, county government leaders have for more than a decade been working in collaboration with residents to strengthen the county’s human services safety net and support a prosperous community. They created Wayne Tomorrow!, a planning initiative to guide the county’s development.

The commissioners have encouraged The Wright Center’s involvement in Wayne Tomorrow!, welcoming input on task forces that address issues of mutual concern, such as how to assist residents who face transportation hurdles and how to implement solutions to the affordable housing crunch, Przasnyski said.

“The Wayne County commissioners are very active in trying to address the needs of the county’s residents, including those who are economically disadvantaged,” said Przasnyski, a Wayne County resident. “Many of the things they are doing align with The Wright Center’s mission, so we are glad to partner with them on initiatives to improve the health and well-being of the population.”

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