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Riley Hospital dialysis food pantry offers safe options for food-insecure families

Riley Hospital food pantry supplies kidney-safe foods

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Riley Hospital dialysis-friendly food pantry offers weekly food distributions of healthy nutrient-dense foods to any family with a child on dialysis who needs help feeding them.

According to nutrition experts, people on dialysis need to follow a renal diet and limit sodium, potassium, and phosphorous. That is difficult for families facing food insecurity.

“Our patients specifically are advised to avoid any of these packages products that have these phosphate-based additives, which is really challenging because these phosphate-based additives show up in a lot of common kid foods,” said Cassandra Erbeck, a pediatric nephrology dietician.

The dialysis food pantry provides fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and renal diet-safe snacks.

“We know that when we teach families about these diet restrictions, we are asking them to buy really expensive food,” said Dr. Neha Pottanat, a pediatric nephrologist and the Medical Director of the Riley Dialysis Unit. “And then if a family and patient was experiencing food insecurity, then we knew we needed to do something extra to help them other than the education on what the healthy foods are specifically giving them those healthy foods.”

News 8 visited the pantry after a weekly food distribution, and there was not much left showing how much dialysis families need it.

“These dietary requirements compound the problem food insecurity creates, so we want to be able to provide the foods that are helpful for their bodies and are compliant with their medical diet, and that’s what we’ve really done here with our food pantry,” said Erbeck.

Michalea Banks’s 11-year-old son, Ethan, has kidney failure. She said she has not used the food resources at the pantry, but the educational resources are a big help to her family.

“Me reading and researching trying to find out what was best for him and best for us because I am not the greatest baker,” Banks said. “A lot of the stuff has got to be fresh. So, I had to learn how to cook everything fresh.”

The pantry works with the nonprofit Second Helpings to fill the shelves with renal-safe foods.

Those looking to donate directly to the dialysis food pantry can click here.