UAH nursing alumna Heather Flores recipient of United Way Joseph H. Newberry 2-1-1 Hero Award

UAH alumna Dr. Heather Flores (left) is honored with the first Joseph H. Newberry 2-1-1 Hero Award by Cathy Miller, Community Impact Director, United Way of Madison County.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Heather Flores (’18, NUR, DNP) an alumna of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Nursing was recently awarded the Joseph H. Newberry 2-1-1 Hero Award.

The United Way (UW) of Madison County presents the award in honor of Joe Newberry, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Redstone Federal Credit Union. Established this year, the award highlights an individual who’s been instrumental in helping UW share the 2-1-1 Network, a national resource, and referral system.

Selected as the first recipient of the 2019 Hero award, Dr. Heather Flores’ community service work brings attention to hunger and the lack of access to food in North Alabama households.

She started Nursing’s Food Security Initiative and used food security-screening tool, The Hunger Vital Sign™ a questionnaire during her scholarly project on Food Insecurity, while a doctoral student at UAH.

Flores worked closely with faculty advisor and mentor, Dr. Azita Amiri, UAH Assistant Professor of Nursing. Flores learned how to connect the dots and put into place a scholarly project that would explain food insecurity and how nursing could serve as the critical piece of the solution.

Flores and Amiri approached Huntsville Hospital nursing leadership with the opportunity to discuss food insecurity in the Huntsville community by initiating food security screening by nurses.

Once the patient-nurse interaction is complete, nurses use the questionnaire containing nutritional education information to refer patients to the local 2-1-1 call center. Flores Nursing’s Food Security Initiative has the potential to not only raise awareness in Madison County but across the state and nation as it expands.

"This is foremost in my work," said Flores. "Food insecurity affects one out of four Alabamians and one in three households with children of single women. Food insecurity creates tough choices between food, healthcare, medication, and overall quality of life.

"Imagine being a single mom unable to afford food for your children in order to pay for a child’s asthma flare up. 2-1-1 is a nationwide resource available to those in need of resources that can help fill the gap as a stepping stone out of dire circumstances," she added.

Today, Flores is a Nurse Practitioner at the John and Ella Byrd McCain Student Health Center at Alabama A&M University. There, they screen students for food insecurity and have partnered with the Food Bank of North Alabama to offer SNAP benefits for students in need of help.

"We are a link to a resource often critical for students to stay focused on studies and to thrive in school. We also provide information about 2-1-1 as a national resource for issues beyond food security," she said.

Flores said nurses are a frontline defense in the face of need. "By screening for food insecurity and connecting those in need, to 2-1-1, nurses can change the trajectory of the future by identifying community service gaps, and helping so many by providing something that should not be a privilege — hope."

2-1-1 is a free, confidential service that connects people from all communities to essential health and human services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Locally, UW and Crisis Services of North Alabama have partnered to deliver services in the area.


Karen Brennan