Baby food products are not part of Hometown Health Center’s regular menu of medical services.
But starting today, parents of children up to age 2 can receive boxes of cereal and jars of bananas, squash and apples for free with a medical visit.
The medical center, at 1044 State St., received 7,000 cases of baby food products, with a retail value of about $60,000, from Beech-Nut on Thursday. Beech-Nut operates a manufacturing plant in the town of Florida in Montgomery County.
Hometown Health is a federally qualified medical center that provides primary care and dental services to people in Schenectady County with little or no medical insurance. The center annually sees about 15,000 patients, of whom about 760 are children ages 2 and younger. Most are on some type of public assistance.
Hometown Health is not giving the food away as part of a marketing promotion, said center CEO Joe Gambino. “It is a unique and special opportunity for us. While we are focused on providing primary care, we are also interested in helping babies grow up healthy and strong,” he said.
Beech-Nut’s donation resulted from initiatives by state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, and Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, whose legislative districts include Schenectady and Montgomery counties.
Farley said, “In my discussions with Beech-Nut President Jim Schneider, I said, ‘You can do an awful lot for the working poor by helping Hometown Health.’ They jumped at that. I was very pleased to put them together.”
Amedore said Beech-Nut is a private company that wants to be a good corporate partner. “Beech-Nut wants to give back. Their donation is good for Hometown Health, good for Schenectady County and the babies, and it is good for Beech-Nut.”
Schneider said Beech-Nut can make an impact in distressed communities by donating baby food products to families served by organizations such as the Hometown Health. “Hometown Health Center provides an invaluable service to so many families throughout Schenectady, and we are delighted that our modest donation can help the organization further fulfill its mission of serving the community,” he said.
Gambino said the health center welcomes the donation. “Knowing the number of underserved individuals we deal with, we thought it was a good idea. It goes directly to their children.
Gambino said the center will provide needy parents a case of food when they come in with their children for a medical visit. “We prefer that it be tied to a medical visit,” he said, adding the center is not a food pantry. “They get the health care they need; the food is a bonus.”
A case contains between 10 and 12 jars or boxes of food.
Gambino said he is uncertain how long 7,000 cases of food will last. He added, however, that Beech-Nut’s commitment is not a one-time-only gesture.
“That is not the end of Beech-Nut’s commitment to Hometown. They will be more than happy to provide baby products to people who need it the most,” he said.