Pictured: Deborah Handler (left) and Dona Miller (right) in the food pantry they created to help feed patients being treated for tuberculosis. Photo: Keith Bratcher/Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

It wasn’t long ago that Dona Miller had to reach into her pocket to buy food for patients in Essex and Union Counties being treated for tuberculosis (TB).

“We’re asking people to take eight to ten pills at the same time, which shouldn’t be done on an empty stomach. But their refrigerator or cabinets would often be totally bare,” says Miller, a public health representative at the Global Tuberculosis Institute at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

With a $29,000 PNC Charitable Trust grant, Deborah Handler, program administrator, and Amee Patrawalla, medical director, both in the institute’s Waymon C. Lattimore Practice, established the Lattimore Food Pantry, which keeps patients fed for the six months necessary for treatment.

The food pantry is needed, Miller said, to ensure that patients—taking a cocktail of medications—are complying with the directions and tolerating them well. This involves daily home visits for at least the first month, then video recordings via an app.

In 2018, the United States grappled with 9,025 reported cases of tuberculosis, according to the CDC, and up to 13 million people live with latent infections. People with TB are often foreign born—emigrating from regions where the disease is endemic, such as Asia, South America, and African countries.

Read the full story in Rutgers Today.