The University of Maryland Medical System announced Monday that it has committed $1.2 million to helping address food insecurity in the state.
The money will go to organizations that already are working in Maryland to reduce hunger and address longer-term needs.
The effort in the 13 regions where the medical system operates is part of a larger effort to reduce the so-called social determinants of health, which have indirect effects on people’s overall well-being.
Officials with the group Feed America said that before the coronavirus pandemic, 11% of Marylanders were food insecure, or didn’t have reliable sources of food. That amounts to about 380,000 people, and the officials said the pandemic has compounded the problem.
In Maryland, the worst rates of food insecurity are in Baltimore City and on the Eastern Shore, both within the medical system’s footprint.
“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 Dr. Mohan Suntha, the medical system’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Being secure with food is at the heart of, and one of the driving forces behind, an individual’s overall health.”
Suntha said the system is working with four organizations already operating around the state. They include the Maryland Food Bank, the Capital Area Food Bank, Moveable Feast and Meals on Wheels.
“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,” said Carmen Del Guercio, the Maryland Food Bank’s president and CEO, in a statement. “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.”