Today, Cleveland Clinic leaders welcomed Sara Bleich, Ph.D., the director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), for a roundtable discussion on local efforts to support equitable, sustainable food-secure neighborhoods.
Dr. Bleich, who is the first person to serve in this role, oversees efforts which ensures that all Americans have consistent access to affordable, nutritious foods that promote optimal health and well-being.
She was joined by Nazleen Bharmal, M.D., associate chief of Community Health & Partnerships at Cleveland Clinic, Congresswoman Shontel Brown (OH-11), Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin, Justin Strickland, director of Market Format Stores at Meijer, and Christopher Burkhardt, executive director of School Nutrition for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, to discuss ways to increase nutrition security, collaborate and leverage USDA programs.
During Dr. Bleich’s visit, she was also given a tour of the community Farmers Market at Cleveland Clinic to see USDA food assistance programs in action and meet with local farmers, vendors and customers.
Now in its 14th year, the community Farmers Market brings a diverse mix of produce, prepared foods and locally made goods to tens of thousands of area residents each season. The market accepts USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and participates in Cuyahoga County’s Produce Perks program.
In addition to the community Farmers Market, Cleveland Clinic is also working towards other strategies to address food insecurity and the overlapping social determinants of health – such as employment and housing – that often contribute to the problem.
- Transforming an urban food desert: Partnering with the City of Cleveland, Meijer, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation and Fairmount Properties to break ground on a $52.8 million development that will include a grocery market and apartment complex.
- Providing year-round mobile food pantry: Distributing fresh produce every month at the Cleveland Clinic Stephanie Tubbs Jones Family Health Center through a partnership with the Greater Cleveland Foodbank.
- Linking patients to community resources: Collaborating with Unite Us to enhance our ability to serve patients who struggle with mental health and access to housing, food, employment and other health determinants by directly connecting them with community organizations to address those needs, while also tracking the outcomes and impact on individuals’’ health.
- Recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce: Joining OneTen, a coalition of 37 large U.S. employers formed to train, hire and promote 1 million Black Americans into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement.
- Supporting local, minority-owned businesses: Joining forces with local institutions to launch the Evergreen Cooperative to create jobs and build community wealth for our neighbors.