Fighting Food Insecurity for Patients

Caring for our community goes beyond the Bayhealth Hospital campuses and Bayhealth Medical Group provider offices. Nonmedical variables such as environment, housing, and food insecurity —some of the social influencers of health—play a critical role in people’s well-being and lifelong journey to good health.

Patient screenings at Bayhealth hospitals and provider offices have identified food insecurity as a top nonmedical concern among respondents (second only to financial need). Not having enough nutritious food to eat puts people at increased risk for heart disease, obesity and other chronic conditions. Food-insecure children may also be at higher risk for developmental problems or mental health concerns.

Bayhealth is helping address food insecurity among its patients, along with other social concerns, through various community partnerships. One such collaboration is with the Food Bank of Delaware. The initiative connects patients with food insecurities with produce and other healthy food items.

During the earlier days of the pandemic, Bayhealth Volunteer Services Manager Carrie Hart was approached by a local baker named Bill Victory who wanted to show some support for hospital staff by making them cakes; he also donated boxes of food that he received from the Food Bank on a weekly basis.

“Speaking to staff about those patients who struggle with food insecurity in our community was very eye opening,” said Hart. “Learning about the struggles people were experiencing and how these boxes of food made a positive impact on their lives was humbling.” The distribution of food boxes was just one way that Bayhealth tried to ensure its patients had what they needed.

That initial project evolved into a Food Insecurity Taskforce, involving Bayhealth team members from different departments coming together to help food-insecure patients. Patients can now receive boxes of low-sodium, low-sugar food before they are discharged from the hospital and get a referral to the Food Bank.

Hart facilitated a connection between the Food Bank and Tabitha Medical Care, a clinic in Laurel that serves a large Haitian population, in hopes it too will receive the heart-healthy low-sodium, low-sugar food boxes for patient distribution.

To further address its patients’ needs outside of the hospital, Bayhealth recently partnered with Unite Delaware, a network that helps connect people with a wide variety of health and social service providers. The patient’s care team at Bayhealth even receives real-time updates on how the patient is doing with those resources.

“We’re in this community together,” Hart said. “We want to help each other lead better lives—not just medically but in all aspects of life.”

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