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Cleveland Clinic pledges $10 million to fight food insecurity

Visitors pass through the lobby of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank's Community Resource Center.
Stephen Langel
Ideastream Public Media
Shoppers select items from the bread aisle inside the Greater Cleveland Food Bank's Community Resource Center.

The Cleveland Clinic pledged $10.5 million over the next five years to further its efforts, in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, to address food insecurity at an event held Friday at the food bank's Waterloo Road location.

The funds will be used to not only support the food bank's efforts to provide food to those in need, but new programs within the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Monica Yepes-Rios, the clinic's medical director of community health equity, told Ideastream Public Media.

“Some of the new programs are the addition of a new teaching kitchen," she said. "Also creating new food pharmacy supplies for pharmacies for our patients in our community."

According to the clinic, food pharmacies are places where experts prescribe healthy food options for pediatric and pregnant patients as well as the public.

Yepes-Rios said the funding will also support efforts to make food easier to access through "a food delivery program with voucher programs that our patients will be able to access healthy food that actually gets delivered to their home and overcomes the barriers of food insecurity and transportation as well."

The food bank also used the event to discuss the programming being provided at its new community resource center on Waterloo Road.

According to Kristin Warzocha, the food bank’s president and CEO, the center, which opened Nov. 1, serves as a one-stop shop for its partners to offer a variety of additional resources to better community member's lives, including by offering housing, employment and healthcare services.

"This community resource center is both a manifestation of the evolution of the food bank and of our thinking and also a unique opportunity for our neighbors in need in our community," she said. “We believe that together, our work will lead to improved economic stability and we can empower people with our collective reach to end hunger."

According to the food bank, those partners include MetroHealth, Shoes and Clothes for Kids, the Legal Aid Society, the Diaper Bank of Greater Cleveland, College Now, Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio Means Jobs, CHN Cleveland Housing Network, Benjamin Rose, Towards Employment, Future Plans, United Way of Greater Cleveland, MAGNET, Family Connections and Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services.

Warzocha said the center is expected to serve 30,000 residents within the first year, adding that additional support is needed in the community as more and more people are food insecure.

"Our fiscal year ended on September 30, and in this past fiscal year we serve more than 400,000 unduplicated," she said. "About 100,000 of those people were new, have not needed emergency food assistance in the past. And yet 540,000 people in our six county service area are income eligible for emergency food at 200% of poverty or below. Hunger is growing and we need to work together to address. And to reduce the number of people who need us."

Stephen Langel is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media's engaged journalism team.