The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) has 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 Diversion, 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.”
At the upcoming Summer MACo conference, an expert panel will discuss the shortcomings COVID-19 revealed about our food supply chain and how we can build a more resilient food system that ensures equitable access to resources and healthy food to ensure no Marylander goes hungry.
The “New Food Future: Building a Crisis-Ready Food System” session will be held Thursday, August 19, 2021 from 3:30 to 4:30 pm.
The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 18-21 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Resilient. Responsive…Ready.”
Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: