Penn State Children’s Hospital is one of 40 children’s hospitals across 14 states that received funding this fall through Rite Aid Healthy Futures’ Connecting Communities grant program.
Etters, York County-based Rite Aid Futures said the grant program supports food-security programs at a time when children are increasingly facing inadequate access to nutritious food and alarming rates of related childhood diseases.
Other Pennsylvania recipients are Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Danville-based Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg.
Individual grants ranged from $25,000 to $300,000, with a total of $4.6 million awarded this year. Rite Aid Healthy Futures said grants support a range of community programs at the various hospitals, including hunger screenings, food distribution programs, community gardens and disease-prevention programs.
Hunger in the United States soared in 2022, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report that found more than 44 million people lived in food-insecure households last year, a 31% increase from the prior year. Hunger among children rose even more – by 45% – with more than 13 million children experiencing food insecurity, according to the report.
“Children’s hospitals are on the front lines seeing and treating the profound effects of hunger, food apartheid and systemic racism in communities across our nation every day,” said Matt DeCamara, executive director of Rite Aid Healthy Futures. “Treating food as medicine and engaging communities in programs that stabilize food access, reduce disease prevalence and create local sovereignty builds healthier and more resilient children, families and neighborhoods. It is imperative to act with purpose and urgency to address the food insecurity crisis. We are proud to partner with so many leading health care systems to ensure pathways to many healthier tomorrows.”
Launched in 2021, Rite Aid Healthy Futures said the Connecting Communities program directs funding to anchor institutions, such as hospitals, that nurture and promote health equity for children, especially those who may already be receiving medical care or living with a serious illness.
This fall’s allocation marks the third round of grant funding Healthy Futures has issued through Connecting Communities signature initiative. Grants are made possible by customers who round up their purchase through Rite Aid’s KidCents program.