University of Maryland Medical System Announces $1.2 Million Commitment To Address Food Insecurity
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. UM Shore Regional Health is working to address food insecurity issues in Mid-Shore counties.
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 the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (UM SRH), have been working to address food insecurity issues in local communities and this aligns with those efforts on a systemwide scale.
UM SRH has a long history of working alongside local organizations and food banks to collect and distribute food to families in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's and Talbot counties. Prior to COVID-19, over 20,000 mid-shore residents were estimated to be food insecure. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UM SRH partnered with the Maryland Food Bank Eastern Shore to help address food insecurity challenges impacting Eastern Shore Marylanders, providing approximately 15,000 nourishing meals, contributing to the overall health and well-being of the community.
"I am deeply concerned about access to food for our most vulnerable populations--children and the elderly," said Ken Kozel, President and CEO of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health. "Many studies have shown food insecurity among children has adverse health effects, including increased rates of iron-deficiency anemia, acute infection, chronic illness, and developmental and mental health problems. Among adults, food insecurity is associated with such health risks as cardiovascular risk factors and hypertension. Shore Health is happy to support the fight against hunger during this unprecedented time."
Quotes from partner organizations:
- Carmen Del Guercio, President and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank: "As a hunger-relief organization that serves a majority of Maryland, we see great value in working with a similar statewide entity to broaden our reach and provide access to nutritious foods in areas of high need served by UMMS facilities. We look forward to working with UMMS to improve health outcomes among vulnerable populations, and hope this will be the start of a long-term partnership that leads to more opportunities to help Marylanders improve their lives through better nutrition."
The Maryland Food Bank plans to collaborate with UMMS on approximately 240 Pantry on the Go events, which will serve an estimated 60,000 families. These mobile pantries will provide produce and other nutritious food to zip codes where the needs are greatest in and around UMMS hospital locations.
- Sue Elias, Executive Director of Moveable Feast: "Moveable Feast has been right where we needed to be during the pandemic – delivering medically-tailored meals to Marylanders experiencing food insecurity and serious illness. Over the last year and a half, we have seen a tremendous increase in the need for our services. Through this partnership, Marylanders will receive nutritious meals delivered right to their door resulting in better client health outcomes, decreased return trips to the hospital, improved food security and reduced healthcare costs."