BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The University of Maryland Medical System is committing $1.2 million to address food insecurity issues in communities across the state that are served by the organization’s 13 hospitals.
The hospitals have been working to address food insecurity issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the financial commitment, some of the 29,000 employees in the system also will volunteer to help pack or distribute food in local communities, officials said.
Feed America estimates nearly 11% of Marylanders were food insecure before the start of the pandemic, which translates to roughly 380,000 people. The pandemic only deepened the need for people to have access to nutritious food, UMMS officials said.
The system 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 people in targeted areas and help the hungry by supplying food and prepared meals. The grants likely will be an extension of work already taking place in those communities, according to the statement.
In Baltimore, the University of Maryland Medical Center has partnered with Hungry Harvest for Mobile Markets, which provides fresh food in areas with food deserts. As a result, more than 2,600 bags of low-cost fresh produce have been sold. The hospital also hosts weekly farmers’ markets near the campus and distributed nearly 40,000 boxes of food, fresh produce and prepackaged lunches throughout the pandemic.
Food insecurity isn’t just a city issue. In Baltimore County before the pandemic, more than 88,200 people – nearly 11% of the population – were food insecure, UMMS officials said. The projection is expected to increase to 12.5% in 2021. During the pandemic, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center supported Parkville High School’s Student Support Network with 450 hours of volunteer labor, bought more than 14,000 sub sandwiches and nearly 2,700 emergency produce boxes.