No amount of medication can compensate for hunger or poor nutrition. • Any health care professional will tell you that food is the first medicine. Without good nutrition, maintaining one’s health is significantly harder and no medical intervention can compensate for what we need first: good and dependable access to food.
BayCare began focusing much of its Community Benefit effort toward food insecurity after our 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment found great need across the four counties we serve: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco. That focus came into even sharper relief with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when social service agencies and food pantries like this one reported significant spikes in demand for food.
Food insecurity is now BayCare’s primary focus for community outreach from immediate investment in food for those in need to adopting systemic changes that should help all patients get their nutritional needs met.
BayCare has invested significantly in and stands firmly beside Feeding Tampa Bay. BayCare knows that food is essential to overall health and wellness and to students’ long-term mental, physical and academic success. We also know that many families struggle to put food on the table. In 2021, invested $450,000 to support 18 public school food pantries in lower-income neighborhoods across the four primary counties BayCare serves. With the “Feeding Minds” program,
Feeding Tampa Bay brings groceries to students and families struggling to make ends meet. These school pantries are stocked with fresh produce, frozen meats and a wide assortment of dry goods such as flour, rice, beans, pastas, whole grain breads and more. Our goal in sponsoring this work is to help parents secure meals for their children and help them thrive in school and in the future. o We were so impressed with this “Feeding Minds” program of Feeding Tampa Bay that we are expanding that relationship this year to a total of 42 schools!
BayCare also has expanded its distribution of “Healing Bags” of food to patients at each of our 14 acute care hospitals. Starting last fall, our care coordination team began screening our patients for food insecurity. Now if a patient says they need and want our support, we enroll them in our food insecurity program and our nutritional services team delivers a Healing Bag to the patient. Each bag contains roughly 2-3 days of worth of non-perishable food items, provided by Feeding Tampa Bay. To date, our team distributed more than 3,000 bags to patients who identified themselves as food insecure.
The team also offers to connect that patient to community resources to help identify more sustainable access to food near their home, using a new tool called FindHelpFlorida.org.
BayCare Health Education Center will help reduce barriers to health • Today, we’re taking our partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay to a whole new level. The BayCare Health Education Center is a physical representation of our ongoing commitment to this organization and to the overall health of our community.
The space is just the first part of our plan to be sure that those who visit the food bank and those who work or volunteer here have access to health information catered to their needs. At any time, people can access the HIGI machine to measure and track their blood pressure, heart rate and weight or stop in for educational material. We’re also planning scheduled events designed specifically for this new Health Education Center like diabetes screening, heart health screening, diabetes education, and CPR classes, to name a few.
Together we will continue to provide availability to healthy food and a path to understanding good nutrition resulting in a life filled with good health and capable futures.