Health Begins Before Birth

Low-income expecting mothers on the First Coast will get nutritious meals, prenatal vitamins and crucial advice about their pregnancies thanks to a critical program offered by Nourishment Network.

In 2012, Nourishment Network launched the Health Begins Before Birth program that provides low-income expectant mothers in our area with nutritious meals during their pregnancies. The program is designed to reduce the area’s infant mortality and premature birth rates.

Pregnant women participating in the program will receive healthy foods, recipes, prenatal vitamins and baby supplies. They will also receive instruction from a registered dietitian about how to eat healthy throughout their pregnancy.

“Unfortunately, not all families can meet their nutritional needs to keep the expectant mother and child healthy,” said Taylor Strasser, Director of Advancement at Nourishment Network. “This program provides increased access to food for the whole family to promote healthy eating throughout the mother’s pregnancy as well as during the first two months after the baby is born.”

In a pilot of the Health Begins Before Birth program that lasted from November 2009 to June 2011, Nourishment Network distributed 222,268 pounds of fresh food to more than 20,000 expectant mothers, helping to decrease Jacksonville’s infant mortality rate significantly. The food bank is expected to provide 154,000 pounds of fresh food to 100 women in the program’s first year.

Shands Jacksonville provides referrals to Health Begins Before Birth for pregnant women receiving prenatal care through its OB/Gyn Clinic, as well as office space for the program to operate. At the Beaches, B.E.A.M. refers pregnant women to be part of the program.

The program has received critical support from the Baptist Health Foundation, among other supporters. 


“One teenager, with an 18-month-old child and pregnant again, had missed prenatal appointments. However, after Nourishment Network’s program manager took healthy food to her, on my next visit, I found her apartment bright and clean, and she was excited about her pregnancy. She said she was coming to her next prenatal visit and was grateful for the food."

- Pat Cregan RN, CNM