Kaiser Permanente and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), including FRAC’s initiatives, have partnered together many times to address food insecurity. Maryland Hunger Solutions (MDHS) worked with Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic Region on a “food as medicine” initiative as recently as 2015. Kaiser Permanente has also supported the community outreach work of MDHS and D.C. Hunger Solutions (DCHS) over the last decade.
In spite of this shared history of partnership, the COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges and opportunities to our outreach work. 2020 saw historic growth in job losses and participation in public benefits. At the same time, we were also seeing incredible barriers for thousands in the local community due to local government offices being closed. The only way to apply for SNAP was through the online portal, or with a local authorized partner organization. And only some organizations had the capacity to offer remote assistance, such as D.C. Hunger Solutions, or Maryland Hunger Solutions, which has a toll free number which can be used anywhere in Maryland (1-866-821-5552).
This was a prime opportunity for Kaiser Permanente to review their patient network and offer them application assistance if they faced food insecurity — many for the first time. Kaiser Permanente engaged a firm and created a texting program to identify likely applicants. Working with Virginia Hunger Solutions (VAHS), DCHS, and MDHS, Kaiser was able to utilize the training, local expertise, navigational assistance from the local partners in every part of the DMV.
This was a win-win for Kaiser Permanente and the outreach organizations. Kaiser was able to address the health of their members by connecting them with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). MDHS, DCHS, and VAHS were able to target local audiences, provide eligible residents with accurate information and application assistance, and ensure that federal benefits were assisting local residents and the local economy.
This partnership has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community, which has benefited residents, food retailers, and farmers’ markets. It’s also helped to provide—literally—food as medicine.
MDHS looks forward to continuing the fight against hunger with Kaiser Permanente.