BayCare Expands Partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay, Opens Health Education Center
Tampa, Fla., (March 4, 2022) – Tucked inside the massive industrial warehouse home of Feeding Tampa Bay, guests, staff and volunteers now have their own dedicated BayCare Health Education Center.
The first of its kind, the facility reflects BayCare’s commitment to addressing the community’s health holistically. The center will serve as a resource for visitors to Feeding Tampa Bay to live healthier lives including offering health education materials, a Higi station for self-monitoring general health and a private area for personal consultations. BayCare also will offer health and wellness events targeted to those served in this unique location.
"We are thrilled to have BayCare’s partnership and presence here in the food bank,” said Thomas Mantz, President and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay. “This new facility is an investment in our community’s long-term health, starting with nutrition which is essential for overall wellness. We all know food equals health and this effort is a huge step forward for our community."
BayCare CEO Tommy Inzina agrees, noting at the ribbon-cutting event that no amount of medication can compensate for hunger or poor nutrition.
“Any health care professional will tell you that food is the first medicine,” Inzina said. “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 the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment found great need across the four counties it serves: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco. That focus came into even sharper relief with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Feeding Tampa Bay and others service agencies 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. Feeding Tampa Bay, with a footprint that matches BayCare’s service area, is a natural partner in this work.
In 2021, BayCare invested $450,000 to support 18 “Feeding Minds” public school food pantries in lower-income neighborhoods in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties. These school pantries are stocked with a variety of healthy groceries to help parents secure meals for their children and help them thrive in school and in the future. Today, BayCare announced plans to more than double the number of “Feeding Minds” pantries to include 42 schools by the end of the year.
BayCare also has expanded distribution of “Healing Bags” to patients at its 14 acute care hospitals. Starting last fall, each care coordination team began screening patients for food insecurity. Now if a patient says they have needs and would like support, the hospital’s 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. Last year, the BayCare team distributed more than 2,650 bags to patients who identified themselves as food insecure.
“Data has really driven our plans, and our research clearly indicates a tremendous amount of food insecurity throughout our region,” said Keri Eisenbeis, BayCare’s vice president of Government and Community Relations. “BayCare’s clinical background paired with Feeding Tampa Bay’s food expertise creates a unique opportunity to really improve the community’s health.”