Community Partners Come Together to Pledge Further Commitment to Addressing Hunger in Greater Cleveland
City of Cleveland, Cleveland Clinic, Greater Cleveland Food Bank, MetroHealth and University Hospitals reinforce collaboration on food insecurity
In communities across the country, food insecurity is a growing issue. It is a lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One in seven people in the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s service area is food insecure, meaning they do not know where their next meal will come from.
Food insecurity is a social determinant of health that has a significant impact on a person’s wellbeing. In Cuyahoga County alone, there is a 20.8% rate of food insecurity among children under the age of 18, according to Feeding America.
Facing this public health issue, several local organizations, including MetroHealth, and the City of Cleveland joined forces with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to announce their strengthened commitment to address this issue and make a positive impact for the community.
"The City of Cleveland is committed to a community-led all-of-government approach to food justice for all residents,” said City of Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “This includes making it easier to acquire vacant land for urban farmers, transforming the West Side Market to support local food vendors, and recruiting healthy grocers to areas in Cleveland in historically redlined neighborhoods. Our communities continue to struggle with financial and food insecurity, and it is imperative that we address these issues collaboratively as it has significant implications for our future.”
Addressing food insecurity and other social drivers of health is a major focus for MetroHealth and its Institute for H.O.P.E.™ The health system’s Food as Medicine Clinic, for example, provides nutritious food packages twice a month for patients experiencing food insecurity and diagnosed with a chronic illness affected by diet, such as hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes. Patients who visit the clinic with a prescription from their provider can get a three-day supply of nutritious food for their household at no cost as well as nutrition education, recipes and other supportive services, for up to one year.
Through a partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ also provides monthly produce distributions at several MetroHealth locations. The HOPE & Healing Garden, MetroHealth’s rooftop container garden, also provides free produce to patients, and 70% of the households served by the program reported experiencing food insecurity. Early next year, MetroHealth will also open a new health clinic at the Food Bank’s Community Resource Center in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. In addition, MetroHealth has made a $1 million, five-year commitment to the Food Bank that will help provide a million meals to Greater Clevelanders in need.
“A lack of access to enough nutritious food can have a devastating impact on a person’s health,” said MetroHealth President & CEO Airica Steed, Ed.D, RN, MBA FACHE. “As Cuyahoga County’s super-safety-net hospital, we see the devastating effects of food insecurity every day in our clinics. If we truly want to improve the health and well-being of our community, if we truly want to eradicate health disparities, we must work collaboratively to address this crisis. I am delighted and encouraged to work in a community where all the major health systems share that commitment. Together, I know we can make a difference.”
In support of its dedication to this cause, Cleveland Clinic announced it is committing another $10.4 million over the next five years to implement several new innovative programs including establishing a new teaching kitchen at Cleveland Clinic’s Langston Hughes Community Health and Education Center to provide free nutrition education and cooking demonstrations; partnering with Aramark and Morrison Healthcare, to offer food vouchers and grocery delivery service for food insecure patients and their families; and creating five Nourish Plus Food Pharmacies, to prescribe healthy food options for pediatric and pregnant patients as well as the public.
Cleveland Clinic’s new investment will also be used to support local food partners including donations to Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Children’s Hunger Alliance and a grant to the Nourishing Power Network. This is in addition to funding Cleveland Clinic has already contributed to support food insecurity, nutrition and education initiatives.
“Caring for our community is a top priority at Cleveland Clinic and we embrace our role as a local leader, working to make a real difference in the lives of our patients and neighbors,” said Tom Mihaljevic, MD, CEO and President and Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair, Cleveland Clinic. “We are investing our resources to address this important issue and are proud to join forces with our partners to ensure that every child in Greater Cleveland has access to nutritious food. Together, we can strengthen the neighborhoods we call home and build a healthy community for everyone.”
University Hospitals has been actively addressing food insecurity in the region since 2018, with the opening of its first UH Food for Life Market® in the Fairfax neighborhood. This innovative program, in collaboration with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Sodexo, addresses food insecurity tailored to the specific medical needs of its patients and assesses the impact of healthy food on health outcomes. Since then, UH has opened additional locations at UH Cleveland and Portage medical centers in 2021 and UH Conneaut Medical Center in 2022. In November, UH cut the ribbon on its fifth Food For Life Market® at the UH Community Wellness Center at Glenville, located at The Davis, an affordable housing complex in partnership with the NRP Group and the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority. Research recently presented at a national meeting in Denver from UH’s Food for Life Markets® shows decreases in blood pressure for hypertensive patients, blood glucose numbers for diabetic patients, and excess weight gain for pregnant patients.
Along with free food and nutritional counseling for patients who experience food insecurity, UH offers free cooking lessons at its teaching kitchens. The first kitchen opened in Dave’s Market, adjacent to UH Rainbow Ahuja Center for Women & Children, in 2018. Two more teaching kitchens opened this year at the UH Community Wellness Centers in Bedford and Glenville. Additionally, since 2017 UH has served more than 41,000 free meals to children through its USDA Summer Feeding Program and provided healthy food bags to more than 12,500 families through Healthy Harvest and Emergency food giveaway programs. Through their Volunteer Time Off program, UH caregivers were given paid hours to volunteer more than 1,000 hours of community service over the last two years at various food distribution events.
“To date, more than 7,600 individuals have been served through our UH Food For Life Markets®, explained UH Chief Executive Officer Cliff A. Megerian, MD, FACS, Jane and Henry Meyer Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair. “But we know we can and must do more, which is why in 2024, University Hospitals will be opening two additional Food for Life Markets® in the Lake County and Richmond Heights communities. With these current efforts, and our plans for expansion over the next five years, our commitment to address food insecurity is estimated to total approximately $18 million.”
“During the pandemic, our three health systems – together with our community partners -- demonstrated our strength in serving our communities when we joined together to solve pressing societal problems,” Dr. Megerian added. “We have also continued to illustrate our collective power in addressing the opioid epidemic through our work with the Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium and managing a citywide Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship, as well as promoting economic prosperity through our efforts with the Cleveland Innovation District, the Healthcare Anchor Network and the Healthcare Sector Partnership. Together, we create scale and a more powerful response if we collaborate when an urgent community need arises. This spirit of “coopertition” is now part of our ongoing business model.”
“We are honored to host this gathering alongside our hospital partners to announce this critical work to alleviate food insecurity,” said Kristin Warzocha, President and CEO, Greater Cleveland Food Bank. “It is so important that we combine our efforts to do everything we can to address food insecurity and provide hope to families who are struggling right here in Northeast Ohio. When we work together on addressing food insecurity, we can make a greater impact for our neighbors and the entire community and for that I am grateful.”
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers For more information, visit metrohealth.org.