This month, Kaiser Permanente launched a new campaign to help its members in Maryland and Washington D.C. access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. In partnership with D.C. Hunger Solutions and Maryland Hunger Solutions, the campaign aims to address food insecurity, which has risen significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is part of Kaiser Permanente’s national Food for Life initiative and engages with members through text messages. Food for Life addresses food insecurity on a national scale—and is part of Kaiser Permanente’s focus on addressing non-medical, social needs as a vital part of creating and maintaining health.
D.C. Hunger Solutions and Maryland Hunger Solutions are projects of the anti-hunger non-profit organization, the Food Research & Action Center, and are significant SNAP outreach organizations in the local community.
In this campaign, Kaiser Permanente identifies members who may be eligible for SNAP benefits and contacts them via text message with a link to information about SNAP – the online application managed by the Maryland and D.C. Departments of Human Services – as well as support on how to apply.
In Maryland and D.C., nearly 50,000 text messages were sent to eligible Kaiser Permanente members in April and May with information on SNAP and a link to the online application. Through this collaboration, Kaiser Permanente aims to assist eligible members with the completion of SNAP enrollment before the campaign closes in May.
“At Kaiser Permanente, we seek to improve the health of the members and communities we serve. Access to healthy, nutritious food is a critical part of achieving that mission,” said Tonga Turner, interim executive director of community health at Kaiser Permanente. “This collaboration with Maryland and D.C. Hunger Solutions helps remove long-standing, systemic barriers to health and well-being for our
Members and the broader community.”
“Maryland Hunger Solutions and Kaiser Permanente have a shared goal – to make sure that people have access to nutrition. It’s fundamental to good health.” said Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “This partnership helps to make that goal a reality for thousands of Marylanders.”
“We are thrilled to be working with Kaiser Permanente on this important initiative to address food insecurity in our region. It will take a collaborative effort to improve health outcomes that have been exacerbated during the pandemic,” said Beverley Wheeler, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “Connecting patients to programs like SNAP will support the health and well-being of D.C. residents.”
Studies show that people without consistent access to adequate food spend about 45% more on medical care each year than those in food-secure households. SNAP provides monthly payments to individuals to spend on food at grocery stores, farmers markets and other food retailers. Encouraging eligible members to apply for SNAP benefits is not a new strategy for the health system, but under the Food for Life initiative, the outreach campaigns are more sophisticated, targeted, and effective.
Kaiser Permanente invests in improving the social and economic well-being of its members, recognizing that an individual’s health is affected by their ability to access healthy and affordable food, housing and economic opportunity. The efforts around food assistance have become particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the rate of food insecurity in the U.S. rose dramatically from pre-pandemic levels. In a 2020 Kaiser Permanente survey of social needs, concern about access to enough food was among the three most prevalent issues, with 31% of respondents identifying food insecurity as a social need.
“Food insecurity is linked to a variety of adverse health outcomes, including poor chronic disease management, developmental and mental health problems, increased hospitalizations, and higher costs of care,” said Michael Horberg, MD, associate medical director research, medical education, community benefit and Medicaid, Kaiser Permanente. “Improving SNAP enrollment for eligible members in our community is part of our work to support sustainable health interventions that address the critical social health needs of our members and the communities we serve.”
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.4 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/
About Maryland Hunger Solutions
Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of children and families in Maryland. To learn more about Maryland Hunger Solution, visit www.mdhungersolutions.org.
About DC Hunger Solutions
D.C. Hunger Solutions, founded in 2002 as an initiative of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), works to create a hunger-free community and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income people in the District of Columbia. To learn more about D.C. Hunger Solutions, visit www.dchunger.org