HUP Food Pantry team innovates to address food insecurity

Between June 2020 and November 2021, the HUP Food Pantry gave out nearly 5,000 bags of food to postpartum families with food insecurity.

After a parent delivers a baby at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), the postpartum nurses on Silverstein 8 are there to care for the parent, infant, and family until they’re discharged. They help establish newborn feeding, provide education to parents, and other post-delivery basics.

Four volunteers place jars and tins of food in two boxes at a food pantry.

For the last few months, three nurses have also been asking patients a few simple questions about food—and if the patients “screen positive” for food insecurity, the nurses offer them a bag of groceries from the HUP Food Pantry to take home.

This pilot program is just one way that Sofia Carreno, HUP’s nursing professional development specialist for community engagement, and Jessie Reich, the director of Patient Experience and Magnet programs, are working to expand the hospital’s food pantry from a pop-up pandemic relief effort for employees facing sudden financial hardship due to changes like a spouse’s job loss, into a broad-reaching program to help the community, with a vision to help all food-insecure patients.

Between June 2020 and November 2021, the HUP Food Pantry gave out nearly 5,000 bags of food and collected over $70,000 in donations, which went toward food purchases to keep the pantry stocked.

“It can be really hard to get to food pantries or places that are offering free food, especially for a new parent with a newborn baby. So if we have the opportunity to intervene right at that moment, it makes a really big difference, versus handing the patient a list of places,” says Rosemary Thomas, director of operations for the Penn Medicine Center for Health Equity Advancement, a partner in the Silverstein 8 pilot. “In the bigger picture, this makes a statement about our health system’s investment in the lives of our patients and employees: that we recognize this is a need and we are working to address it.”

In the future, Carreno hopes to be able to offer programs like this one – and the pilot on Silverstein 8 – to all patients who qualify at HUP.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.