University of Maryland Medical System Announces $1.2 Million Commitment To Address Food Insecurity
UM Capital Region Health Working To Address Food Insecurity Issues In Prince George's County
The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) today announced a $1.2 million commitment to address food insecurity issues in the communities across the state which are served by the organization's 13 hospitals.
UMMS is working with the Maryland Food Bank, the Capital Area Food Bank, Moveable Feast and Meals on Wheels to provide directed grants and other resources to the most vulnerable individuals in targeted areas and help those who are hungry in our communities by supplying food and prepared meals. In most cases, the grants will be an extension of work that is already occurring in local communities.
This initiative falls under the System's Corporate Social & Economic Justice workstream, which operates within the growing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion effort, and is one of several that the System will be focusing on to address social determinants of health. In addition to the financial commitment, members of the System's workforce of more than 29,000 individuals will also have opportunities to volunteer, such as helping pack and/or distribute food in local communities.
"As anchor institutions in the communities we serve, we have a moral obligation to help people not only directly with their physical health needs, but helping them put food in their pantries and on their tables," said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of UMMS. "Being secure with food is at the heart of, and one of the driving forces behind, an individual's overall health."
Prior to COVID-19, nearly 11 percent of Marylanders were food insecure, according to the organization Feed America, impacting approximately 380,000 individuals across the UMMS footprint, and the issue was exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.
"We are working with these organizations because they are focused on feeding the hungry now and also on developing broader long-term solutions to food insecurity challenges," Dr. Suntha said. "Partnering with them will help ensure that our resources are used for the most measurable and innovative solutions possible."
UMMS member organizations, including University of Maryland Capital Region Health (UM Capital) in Prince George's County, have been working to address food insecurity issues in local communities and this aligns with those efforts on a systemwide scale.
More than 66,000 Prince Georgians are food insecure, in excess of seven percent of the county's population, and more than 94,000 – higher than 10 percent of the county's residents - live in a food desert, defined as a low income area where urban residents are more than one mile away from a supermarket, or suburban residents are more than 10 miles away. The 2019 Prince George's County Community Needs Assessment identified that many residents had food access challenges related to the quality of local stores. Respondents felt that the lack of affordable and quality foods contribute to the increased rates of obesity and other chronic diseases experienced by residents in the county.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, UM Capital donated $32,000 to support the purchase of food for two local food banks, which supported the purchase of 40,000 pounds of food, serving 10,000 families. UM Capital is also a member of the Prince George's County Food Security Task Force, formed in 2020 to address issues related to the demand and supply of healthy food, food health connections, school meals, and overall food security in Prince George's County. The group is tasked with identifying challenges and opportunities and providing recommendations for creating a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system that ensures every Prince Georgian has access to nutritious, affordable, sustainably grown, safe and culturally appropriate food.
"As a community partner, we strive to improve the health of our community with a holistic approach and this initiative will support our efforts," said Nathaniel Richardson, Jr., President & CEO, UM Capital Region Health.
Radha Muthiah, President and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, said, "The extraordinary level of economic turmoil brought about by the pandemic has also caused unprecedented need for food assistance in our region. The critical support provided by UMMS is enabling us to provide more of the nutritious food that our neighbors need, and to distribute it in ways that make it easy to access. This partnership will allow hundreds of families to get the meals that help them thrive both today and into the future as our community rebuilds together."
About the University of Maryland Medical System
The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) is a university-based regional health care system focused on serving the health care needs of Maryland, bringing innovation, discovery and research to the care we provide and educating the state's future physician and health care professionals through our partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland, Baltimore professional schools (Nursing, Pharmacy, Social Work and Dentistry) in Baltimore. As one of the largest private employers in the State, the health system's more than 29,500 employees and 4,000 affiliated physicians provide primary and specialty care in more than 150 locations, including 13 hospitals and 9 University of Maryland Urgent Care centers. The UMMS flagship academic campus, the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore, is recognized regionally and nationally for excellence and innovation in specialized care. Our acute care and specialty rehabilitation hospitals serve urban, suburban and rural communities and are located in 13 counties across the State. For more information, visit www.umms.org.
About the University of Maryland Capital Region Health
Providing primary and specialty health care services to Prince George's County and the neighboring area, University of Maryland Capital Region Health was established in September 2017 upon formal affiliation with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), and is committed to improving health outcomes in the communities it serves. University of Maryland Capital Region Health operates the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo, University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center, University of Maryland Bowie Health Campus, and the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Group with practice locations in Cheverly, Suitland, Bowie, Laurel and the National Harbor. Together, community physicians and University of Maryland School of Medicine (SOM) faculty provide clinical expertise across a range of specialties and programs including: acute rehabilitation; anesthesiology; critical and chronic ventilation care; emergency medicine; neonatology; orthopedics; and vascular surgery. University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center is home to the State's second-busiest trauma center and a highly regarded cardiac surgery program, which is led by faculty from the University of Maryland School of Medicine; a certified and designated primary stroke center. For more information, visit www.umcapitalregion.org