Speaker 1: You're listening to Intermountain Healthcare's Podcast Channel.
Mikelle Moore: Hi, I'm Mikelle Moore. I'm Senior Vice President and Chief Community Health Officer for Intermountain Healthcare, and I am delighted to be here in St George recording a podcast with two guests and I hope now friends, from Tan's Treats, that's based here in St. George, just a few miles from where we're recording. And one of my fellow caregivers from Intermountain who's been involved in creating some great opportunities for us to work together in service to our community. Tasha and Nicole, thank you for joining us today.
Nicole: Thank you for having us.
Tasha: We're so grateful and excited to be here today.
Mikelle Moore: Good, good. And Ellen, thank you for being here as well. I want to make sure I say your name correctly, because I meant to ask you that before. I'm going to say [inaudible 00:00:52].
Ellen: Yeah, that's really close. It's Crosshair.
Mikelle Moore: Crosshair.
Mikelle Moore: That's not close at all.
Ellen: It is. That was so close.
Mikelle Moore: Okay. Crosshair. Okay. We also have an Intermountain caregiver joining us. Ellen Crosshair. How long have you been with Intermountain, Ellen? What do you do?
Ellen: I've been working with Intermountain for five years and my most recent position is the Experience of Care Consultant within the Office Of Patient Experience. So I actually, I think I have the best job here at Intermountain.
Mikelle Moore: No, I do. Sorry. Just kidding.
Ellen: Okay. Well I get to focus on making sure that we're elevating the care that we give our patients everyday to extraordinary and really engaging our caregivers in the care that they give and empowering them with the opportunity to give the very best care that they can. So I really think that's the best job.
Mikelle Moore: It's a pretty important position. Okay. All right. You win. Well, and I want to hear your story, Nicole and Tasha, because you've created something really unique in our community here that felt was connected to you personally. Can you tell us the story of Tan's Treats and how you got involved?
Tasha: So yes. Tan's treats started initially in memory of Zach, who is my husband and Nicole's brother. Their brother Tanner, that had passed away tragically seven years ago. When he was young, he was in elementary school and he was coming home just totally famished after school rating the pantry. After about two weeks, his mom was like, why? Why are you eating everything? I need to lock you out of the pantry? And he admitted to her at that point that he had been given his lunch to his friend, that he wasn't sure had food when he went home. And so when we were first introduced to a program very similar to this out of state, we knew that if we did something like this, it would help Tanner's legacy live on and it would help us feel better and it would help us continue that serving heart that he had.
When we moved back, we didn't know if there was any need. Did we need to help these kids or is everybody in St. George doing great? And after talking with school counselors, we realized that the need here was a lot bigger than people realized. And so we sat down at family dinner one night and decided that this was what we needed to do. We couldn't not do something when we knew that there were kids going hungry. And so now we take little bags of food to the schools every Friday morning and they take them out to these kids that need food to help them get through the weekend.
Mikelle Moore: Tell us a little bit about the need. I am struck by how much, as I've worked in this community, I think we recognize that there's increasing disparities between people and families in our communities, that really is not visible all of the time. And I think children's hunger is one of those things that's a little bit of an invisible problem.
Tasha: It really is. We lived in Atlanta before we moved back here. I mean, we were born and raised here. We lived away for a while and the need is visible there. I mean, you see it all over the place. And when we came back, that's why we weren't really sure. Maybe there's no program here because they don't need a program.
Mikelle Moore: Or maybe no one [inaudible 00:04:15].
Tasha: Yeah, because you don't see it. You don't see it on the streets. You don't see it outside. But when we went to the homeless liaison for Washington County, which who even knew they had one of those, we started finding out like it was, it was actually pretty shocking that there is a drastic need. You don't see it quite as ... It's not quite as prevalent and outside in your face as other places, but there's a distinct line of kids that are not getting what they need.
Mikelle Moore: How long has Tan's Treats been serving kids in this community now?
Nicole: We are ... Do for three years now.
Mikelle Moore: Three years. Okay, great. So Ellen, how did you get involved with Tan's Treats? When I think about your position, I doubt that there are very many people who are telling us on a daily basis that the difference between going from ordinary to extraordinary in their experience has something to do with Tan's Treats.
Ellen: Yeah, that's true.
Mikelle Moore: But there's a connection.
Ellen: They might not be telling us that everyday. It was actually the OPE Director, they asked us to find a service project in our community that we would all participate in on the same day throughout the system. And so for experience week we are asked to find something in our community that we can be a part of. And so I started asking the caregivers that are in the department I work in, do you know of anything that would be a good service project for this? And there was a few things, we could donate to the food bank or there's always like the Dove Center, they need things.
And one of the caregivers said, well we did a service project for Tan's Treats and it was awesome. And she gave me some background on it and I was like, that's important. And so she gave me Zach's number and I text him and they are amazing to work with. He sent me back the information that day. In fact, he sent me an email outlining everything and I was totally sold after I read their story. I was like we can be a part of this and we can make a big difference. That was the main reason that I decided that we should do the service project for Tan's Treats.
Mikelle Moore: Then tell me about the service project. What did you organize?
Ellen: They actually give you everything that you need to engaged people in this service project; a list of the food, the background of the story. The only thing that I created was just something for our caregivers to put in the area where they work on their huddle board, a goal of the number of bags that they're going to gather for the service date.
Mikelle Moore: I love it. You turned it into an Intermountain operating model. Translation so you got people engaged.
Ellen: Yeah, went on their huddle board. They agreed on a goal number and they just started working towards that. And so all I did was just deliver the packets to all the units, each of the managers within the hospital and then also in the medical group. And it was amazing. They started messaging me and saying, we have so much food. Can you come and get it? We don't have enough room for it. And so we found an empty room to store the food in until the day that we produced the bags. I was overwhelmed with the amount of food that we were able to gather just in a two week period of time. It was amazing.
Mikelle Moore: Do you remember the numbers? How much food did you collect?
Ellen: So the day of, I think it was like 567 we donated, I think it was around $200 and then since then we've donated a few more times, just smaller amounts of food that people have continued to bring in. I don't know the total.
Tasha: That also didn't count all of the extra food that we had that didn't complete regular bags that we were able to use the next week. And it was like 75% of everything we needed for the next weeks too.
Nicole: And she like literally keeps calling us and saying, Hey, I have more food for you. [crosstalk] Another box of food for you.
Ellen: I mean, people that they're like, Oh, I just, I was out and this was on sale. And so I got it. Can you get this to them? And I'm like, yes, I can.
Mikelle Moore: Oh, that's great. I love it. How many children did Intermountain caregivers feed that week? And then into the following? How many kids?
Tasha: I would say with everything, we were probably around a thousand bags of food. A thousand bags that have your two breakfast, two lunch, two dinner, and two snack items.
Mikelle Moore: Okay. So you're helping me visualize this. It's a bag of food with self-serve items for the weekend essentially.
Tasha: Yeah. Things like instant oatmeal or like Nutrigrain bars for breakfast, Easy Mac and Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner, granola bars, and a snack item for a snack. And then we try to do a meat item and a fruit cup or an applesauce for a lunch item so that we kind of hit some of the basic food groups. And we always hope that we're just supplementing a little bit of food that they have at home. But we also know that there are kids that have to be able to make all of these things completely on their own because they don't have parental support over the weekend. And so that may be all some of them are getting, but they can access it and that's really important to us. Making sure they can get into it and get it to themselves.
Mikelle Moore: It's heartbreaking to imagine and yet we know it's true. I know as people think about how to get involved in helping children's nutrition issues, that there's sometimes debate about the quality of the food and I know we always are thinking about more fresh fruits and vegetables and yet you've got to pack this in a way that it can get home and be self-sufficient. Anything you want to comment on there that would help our listeners understand?
Nicole: I wish we could do more fresh fruits and vegetables. That's not really always realistic as far as cost goes. And as far as preparation goes for these elementary school kids, a lot of these kids are your younger elementary school grades as well. A lot of times we have to substitute the cup of diced peaches rather than a real peach, where they would actually get more nutritional value from that. But we take what we can and we make it work.
Mikelle Moore: And I would imagine there's some kids, and I know you have a little bit of a background in this, Ellen, from your culinary training, if you sent a whole peach, it might not get eaten.
Ellen: Yeah, it might not. Those aren't the things that, that, that these children are used to eating so sometimes if we were to send items that we deem as more nutritious, it might not meet their palate. They might not actually use that food. And then like you said, the issues of just trying to get it to their house is, I think that's huge. And I think one of the great things about Tan's Treats is that they make this really easy on us, right? We want to donate, we want to be a part of it, but they have such a great process. And the items that are sent to these children every weekend, they're easy items for us to go and gather and then donate or help put those bags together.
Mikelle Moore: If you see them on sale, put them in your trunk.
Ellen: And it's very well thought through the entire process.
Mikelle Moore: That does make a difference. I appreciate you bringing that up. I wonder if you can share with us a little bit about the response you're getting from the kids, from the families, maybe from the people who are your partners at the schools.
Tasha: Yeah, so that's one of the big things for us is a lot of times we're kind of removed, we're the behind the scenes, we don't get to see what a difference it's making. We just keep going because every once in a while we'll get that story that comes back around to us. One of my favorites and one of them that really touched my heart was we were doing a food drive at a local grocery store and we were having people that were picking up extra things and dropping them in the bin as we sat there outside by the doors. And then this lady pulls up with this whole cart full of stuff that we could use and we're like, Oh my gosh, thank you so much, this is so nice.
And she said to us, "Last year I didn't have a job and so my kids weren't getting Tan's Treats bags and this year we're fine. So this is me giving back." And so when things come full circle like that, it touches my heart even more and makes it more worth it because a lot of these people, it is a transitional time and they just need help to get through it, and then they're coming back around and helping us out, helping us with this big project.
Nicole: Another one that as you're telling that story comes to my mind is we got a email from a counselor at the school that said, "I had a little kid, it was a kindergartner and he was struggling. It was Friday morning. He was having a total meltdown, wouldn't leave the office, we couldn't understand what was going on. And then my dad pulled up with the Tan's Treats trailer and they said the kid just calm down." And it was like he knew he was getting his bag of food for the weekend. And he went right to class and went on with his day. But for these kids, it's not just ... I mean it is a matter of the nutrition because they need it, but it's also like a lot of these kids are in hard circumstances, so this makes them feel special. This is their own thing.
We had a mom contact us after one of our events that we had been speaking at and she ran up to us and said, I left my husband. It was a really abusive situation. I took my two little kids in the middle of the night. We left with absolutely nothing. We went to the Dove Center, my kids didn't have anything. I got them in school and they started getting Tan's Treats bags and they would come home every Friday and they would dump their bags out on the floor and go through it. And they were so excited with what they got. And it was kind of the same situation that Tasha shared because she said, I have a job now, we're back on our feet and now I feel like I can contribute to Tan's Treats. Whereas last year we really needed tens treats. I just think that's cool that we live in a community where people use it when they need it and then they're really trying to pay it forward when they can.
Mikelle Moore: Right. So you said something, Nicole, that made me think about, as Ellen and I work in healthcare, we're always thinking about how do we improve health and yet that reliable access to food is so much more basic than most of the things we think about in healthcare. What role does access to healthy food have in our communities overall wellbeing?
Nicole: I would just say we know that these children, they can't even concentrate in school if they don't have something to eat. How do you ... It's hard for us to concentrate if we're just doing our daily work and we hear our stomach growl like, Oh I need to go eat something. Imagine if there wasn't something to eat. How do we get them to concentrate so that they can learn? And their body's developing, their brains need that nutrition. We want them to grow and develop like they should. And so I think especially things like Tan's Treats, it helps provide them more than just the nutrition that they need.
Tasha: Yeah, I think finding a cause that you believe in. Well, this is one that's close to our hearts and my family because food is like a big deal to us. I mean, I think the most commonly used term is hangar. But every time I start getting ornery or mean all my whole family's like somebody get her food. And I'm an adult, you know? And so we like expect these kids to come in on Monday morning after going without the nutrition that they need and we want them to learn and we want them to concentrate and want them to be nice to the kid next to them. I can't even do that when I don't have food, so it's like so important. I mean it has to do with everything, it's not just the nutrition but it's the way they act. It's their mental health, it's them playing outside, it's them concentrating in school. It all revolves around them getting nutrition.
Mikelle Moore: Yeah. We have to have our basic needs met before we can think broader. I also think about the parents who can rely on knowing that their kids have something through the weekend, even if that's not forefront on their mind at the time. It's got to help. I love that this came about, both from the perspective of the project here at Intermountain but also Tan's Treats overall. From the standpoint of seeing a need, something that needs to be addressed in our community and matching it to an interest. What is our opportunity as a community to do more of that? How can people get involved, if they want to get involved with Tan's Treats, or more generally in helping out our fellow mankind?
Tasha: I mean we specifically have a lot of information available on our website. It's just www.tanstreats.com. We have so many different ways to help. You can do something as easy as getting online and clicking on that donate button and donating. $20 for a month takes care of one child's mills for the entire month and you can do that and just be done. Or there's always the ongoing projects. We always need help packing bags and organizing food drives like this one that IHC just did.
Such a huge help for us and all of our volunteers because everyone that helps us is a volunteer and so having so much of the hard work of the week taken off for us that week, helps all of us as well. We always need ... We have our volunteers that help deliver bags and even just spreading the word to other people so that they know about the organization makes the biggest difference to us. We only do one real fundraiser a year. We do a 5K the first weekend in December that we call the Hungry Hustle and we just focused on fun and it's just fun and all the proceeds go to helping us operate for the next year. There's just so many ways from even little things to big things that help us operate that we couldn't do without any of the little steps in between.
Mikelle Moore: Great. I can see that being involved in this community effort is really meaningful to you. What do you get from this in terms of personal payback?
Tasha: Oh, we get so much. I think for us, this was introduced to us at the perfect time because we had just lost my brother. It was a really, really a low point for us in our lives. And we found that when we were serving others, it was taking the focus off of us and our heartache and it was making us feel better. We were randomly introduced to a backpack buddies program and we just ... It blew our minds that kids don't have enough food. And like I said, that's our passion is food. So for us it was like this is the perfect, especially with the story of my brother when he was younger, this came at the perfect time and we have to help. So when we started doing this, we started with a school, we had 51 bags. It was just kind of overwhelming.
Mikelle Moore: So one school?
Tasha: One school,
Mikelle Moore: 51 kids who needed...
Tasha: We started with the biggest Title One schools that we could find so they were the ones with the bigger numbers and we were like 51 bags? How are we going to do this every single week? And this community has been amazing. I am just blown away at the support we've received. I mean we just grew so quickly and every time we have stress and we feel like things aren't falling into place or we get worried about something, then somebody steps up at the right time, like IHC, and everything falls into place. And they organize a food drive and we end up with the bags that we need. And it's just, I've always loved this community but doing this over the last three years, really we have the greatest community ever. They have really stepped up and helped.
Mikelle Moore: It's interesting because I hear you saying you get something. Personally from the joy of giving, but then also seeing that service in others makes you feel good about the world.
Tasha: It does. And this community and for us, a big part of this was we have kids that we want to teach this to. We want them to serve. And I see everybody else in the community too. Lots of families will say, I want to do this, but I want my kids to be involved. Whatever they can do, if they can pack five bags that month, they get the stuff, they have their kids help pack the bags and then the kids come and drop them off. It's really cool to see them passing this along to their children and teaching them the joy of service.
Mikelle Moore: It's good to see that kind of happiness spread.
Nicole: And I think I'll just add that you're not just teaching your children, right. And on the others who are donating, but the children that you're serving, they're learning too. It's such an important thing. Once you've been served, later they're going to be like, I received this service when I really needed it. And they're going to want to give back too. You're really creating this circle of doing the right thing at the right time.
Mikelle Moore: Gratitude and service all wrapped together. I love that. If someone wanted to get involved outside of Washington County, where we are today, what would you recommend to them for how to get involved in this or something else?
Tasha: They could always reach out to their local Title One coordinator at the school and nearest to them. They would know what kind of need there is. There are a backpack buddies programs of whichever area they live in. If you search for it on the internet, you can find it, but I really think your best source would really be to contact the school specifically and ask their Title One coordinator. That was what we did and they gave us a wealth of information of how much help that really is needed out there. That would be my best advice.
Mikelle Moore: Listen to the people who have the need.
Mikelle Moore: Right?
Mikelle Moore: That's great. Ellen, Tasha, and Nicole, I appreciate you spending your time with me today. It's been really inspiring to hear your story and to talk about an really important and often overlooked subject in our communities. Thank you.
Tasha: You're welcome.
Nicole: Thank you for having us.
Mikelle Moore: It's been fun as well. Thank you to our listeners as well. If you have questions or comments about today's episode, please share them with us on Twitter. Our handle is @intermountain. We would love to hear from you. To learn more about Tan's Treats and to support this important organization, visit tanstreats.com.