Mobile Clinic Partners with Food Bank of Northeast Georgia

With COVID-19 cases still holding steady in Georgia, the Medical Partnership Mobile Clinic/Athens Free Clinic continues to provide free testing to the underinsured and uninsured of Athens-Clarke county and surrounding areas.

Since beginning the testing in April, the clinic has administered approximately 2,000 tests.

“I wanted to start this mobile testing effort so that we could serve our usual Medical Partnership Mobile Clinic/Athens Free Clinic primary care panel during the pandemic by providing them with free testing at their homes and in their neighborhoods,” said Dr. Suzanne Lester, the Medical Director of the clinic. “We know from our two years from delivering primary care to these communities that they are typically working in critical infrastructure but without health insurance, and often their families have limited access to health care as well due to lack of transportation and insurance. Knowing that our patients would have to continue to work and be at risk was concerning, and so to bring testing to them and make sure that they know we are still here for their needs was my primary motivation.”

Even while providing this selfless service to the community, Dr. Lester and Dr. Lia Bruner, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Partnership and volunteer at the clinic, decided they could do even more.

They knew when a patient tested positive, they would have to quarantine at their home, which makes getting food and other supplies difficult. This led the clinic to reach out to the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia to form a partnership.

“We looked for ways to help people stay home when they are symptomatic, have a known exposure, or get a positive test,” said Bruner. “We suspect that staying home may not be an option for some for a variety of reasons including food insecurity.”

The partnership with the food bank was finalized in July, and the Quarantine Boxes are offered to anyone the clinic tests who receives a positive test result, has symptoms, or has a high-risk of exposure.

“We decided to participate in this program because it was a wonderful opportunity to help meet a crucial need during this pandemic,” said Chuck Toney, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. “When it was presented to me, I immediately said yes.”

Each Quarantine Box contains two weeks of fresh foods like produce, meat, and dairy, and also nonperishables like canned foods and dry goods such as pasta, beans, and rice. The boxes also contain supplies such as toilet paper, paper towel, hand sanitizer, and dish detergent.

“Our hope is that we can make it easier for families to stay home when they need to quarantine and help out families who are at financial and medical risk with COVID-19,” said Bruner.

“I hope we are a small part of providing relief to our neighbors who are living in quarantine,” said Toney. “The vision of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia is creating a community where no neighbor experiences hunger. By providing food that allows these neighbors to stay home, we are also protecting the larger community from the spread of the virus.”

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