Cleveland Clinic, USDA Roundtable Highlights How Community Partnerships Promote Food Security

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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.

Examples include:

  • 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.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 72,500 employees worldwide are more than 5,050 salaried physicians and researchers, and 17,800 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,500-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 22 hospitals, more than 220 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2021, there were 10.2 million total outpatient visits, 304,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 259,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. Visit us at Follow us at News and resources available at