University of Maryland Medical System Announces $1.2 Million Commitment To Address Food Insecurity
System and Member Organizations Working With Four Well-Respected Organizations
BALTIMORE (August 2, 2021) – 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.
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.
UMMS member organizations have been working to address food insecurity issues in local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this aligns with those efforts on a systemwide scale. 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.
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.
While Baltimore City has the highest rate of food insecurity, residents of the Eastern Shore are also experiencing double-digit rates. For example, Dorchester County has a food insecurity rate of almost 15 percent of residents, and is where UMMS operates the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester in Cambridge, one of three UM Shore Regional Health hospitals serving the five-county Mid-Shore area.
"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."
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.
"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."
In Baltimore City, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has partnered with Hungry Harvest for "Mobile Markets" providing fresh food strategically located in areas with food deserts; more than 2,600 bags of low-cost fresh produce have been sold. UMMC also hosts weekly Farmer's Markets in a park across the street from the hospital's downtown campus. Throughout COVID, the hospital has partnered with food companies and non-profit organizations to distribute close to 40,000 boxes of food, fresh produce and prepackaged lunches, filling an especially urgent need in the immediate wake of the pandemic, when schools shut down and food stores could not keep up with demand.
"Food deserts are a longstanding problem in many cities. Here in Baltimore, we are working in partnership with our communities to assure all citizens have access to nutritious food, which is vital to whole-person health," said Bert W. O'Malley, MD, UMMC's President and Chief Executive Officer. "This grant will significantly aid these efforts and further expand the infrastructure our medical center is helping to build to support reliable access to fresh and healthy food in all Baltimore neighborhoods."
Prior to COVID-19 in Baltimore County, more than 88,200 people (including more than 26,300 children), nearly 11 percent of the county's residents, were food insecure. The projected overall food insecurity rate for Baltimore County in 2021 is 12.5 percent of residents. During its COVID-19 response, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center (UM SJMC) supported the Student Support Network food distribution at Parkville High School, providing 450 staff hours. The Towson hospital also purchased more than 14,000 sub sandwiches and nearly 2,700 emergency produce boxes, equaling more than 26,750 pounds of produce from Hungry Harvest, which were donated and distributed to families in need in the communities they serve.
"We are committed to advancing the health of our community and so fulfilling the needs of those experiencing food insecurity is a responsibility we take seriously," said Thomas B. Smyth, MD, SJMC's President and Chief Executive Officer. "We are here to serve our community and grateful to support all efforts to erase inequities such as food insecurity that adversely impact the health and well-being of our fellow citizens."
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.
Stephanie Archer-Smith, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland: "We are thrilled that the University of Maryland Medical System chose to partner with us on addressing food insecurity among homebound aging and disabled adults. It is critically important that anchor institutions like UMMS work together with community-based organizations to address health disparities that result from inequity in our community. We look forward to working together to provide daily nutritious meals to vulnerable aging and disabled adults in support of this important work."
With the support of UMMS, Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland will provide 25,000 home-delivered meals to 100-150 additional clients in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Harford County in targeted zip codes from August 1, 2021 through July 31, 2022.
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."
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.