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TribLive Food Podcast: UPMC health team is critical in identifying food insecurity

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021 12:54 p.m.


EMTs with UPMC picking up food boxes at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
EMTs with UPMC picking up food boxes at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. 📷: UPMC

On the latest episode of the Food Podcast presented by Clearview Federal Credit Union on the TribLIVE podcast network, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank talks with UPMC Health Plan about its efforts to address food insecurity.

UPMC Health Plan is a large donor to the Food Bank’s Grow Share Thrive Campaign aimed at renovating the food bank warehouse to house and distribute more healthy food to the community.

Among other donations, UPMC Health Plan actively works with the food bank to provide food to patients through an innovative team, created to help with the welfare of the UPMC Health Plan member community.

This team, made up of community health workers, community paramedics, social workers and nurses is trained to check in on patients personally, and identify other hurdles contributing to the overall health of a patient.

“If you’re diagnosed with a chronic condition it’s really challenging to manage that in and of itself, but when you are also struggling with things like not being able to afford your rent or worrying about transportation or childcare issues or food insecurity, it makes managing those diseases much more complex,” said UPMC Health Plan vice president of community services, Dan Swayze.


The team personally follows up with patients at home. Swayze says that personal connection made it obvious, food insecurity was a serious factor for some of their patients.

“We had a gentleman who had been seen at one of our hospitals who was there longer than he should have been and a care manager referred him to us when he was discharged because she was concerned about some of the things she was seeing and hearing. So she asked us to go check up on him. He had been diluting the ketchup to make tomato soup and that’s literally all he had to eat for the days prior to him needing to go into the hospital,” said Swayze.

Since then, UPMC Health Plan’s community paramedics started working with the food bank to provide boxes with several pounds of shelf-stable food for patients in a food crisis. The team carries them in their vehicles so they can immediately give people access to food before connecting them with Food Bank resources. UPMC Health Plan’s EMS food delivery partnership with the Food Bank has inspired hundreds of similar EMS partnerships across the country.

Swayze says that personal check-in is something anyone can do, and says simply checking in on a neighbor could be a life-changing act.

🍎 To learn more about food resources available, and how you can pick-up food for someone in need, visit pittsburghfoodbank.org.

🎧 Listen: UPMC heath team is critical in identifying food insecurity