In Spring 2022, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) team began to hear about the hardships local food providers were having in their efforts to obtain fresh produce. During the height of the pandemic response, federal COVID-19 Emergency Response dollars increased purchases and access to fresh and healthy produce. In 2022, these dollars came to a halt and so did the access to fresh fruits and vegetables that local food partners had come to rely on. Partners were forced to travel throughout the DC Metro Region to access healthy and nutritious produce.
After months of discussions and learning tours with County government and local food leaders, the Foundation had a better understanding of the need. Crystal Townsend, President and CEO of Healthcare Initiative Foundation explains, “Food security is a social determinant of health and unequal access to healthy, culturally important, and affordable foods contributes to the health inequities and disparate health outcomes we see in our County. A new approach is needed to help build a sustainable health promoting local food system. HIF’s investment through this innovative contract growing pilot will encourage Montgomery County farmers to grow culturally important, farm-to-table crops creating a local solution to address our County’s food insecurity needs.”
To develop and lead this proof-of-concept model, HIF has awarded $50,000 toManna Food Center (Manna). While this pilot is a forward-thinking first step, it is being built using the provenFarm to Food Bank model that is led by Manna. Farm to Food Bank was launched in 2010 to partner with local farms, orchards, and farmers markets to purchase local produce at a cost that is beneficial to both the farmers and partners and then distribute those nutrient-dense foods to people experiencing food insecurity through local food providers. Manna’s CEO, Jackie DeCarlo, elaborates, “HIF’s investment will allow Manna to test the ability of contract growing arrangements with Montgomery County-based farms to increase the amount of highly sought after and health-promoting foods that are available for the Hubs and other food assistance providers to share with community members experiencing food insecurity. In addition to supporting the short-term necessity for additional produce for County residents, this financial support of the contract-growing model and enhancement to Manna’s Farm to Food Bank program addresses the ever-increasing need to support the local Montgomery County agricultural economy in order to realize Manna’s vision of Food for All.”
This 16-week pilot, built around the growing season, will partner with two Montgomery County farms –Lewis Orchards (Dickerson) andFarm at Our House (Brookeville) – that will provide produce to two consolidation hubs that have been underserved –Gaithersburg CARES Hub at Seneca Creek and theEast County Hub at Kingdom Fellowship. In this advanced purchasing model, the two hubs, through Manna, will place their order for specific produce (in pounds) at the beginning of the growing season (February 2023). The $50,000 in funding from HIF ensures that these two partner hubs and 1700 members of their communities receive a specific amount of culturally-appropriate produce.
To learn more about this pilot project, please reach out to the team at HIF for more information. On May 23, 2023, Manna Food Center and the Farm to Food Bank project were highlighted in The Washington Post. The work of this proof-of-concept model was featured. Click here to view the article.
On February 21st, the HIF Board of Directors awarded more than $500k in grant dollars to #22 Montgomery County-serving nonprofits. These grant dollars are focused on ensuring that all members of Montgomery County receive high-quality, comprehensive, and equitable health and wellness services in the communities where they live.
Due to the vast need in our community, the Board of Trustees was committed now so more than ever to investments that built collaboration and cross-sectoral coordination within the Foundation’s strategic priority areas to have the greatest community impact. This year, more than 80% of the awarded grant dollars will be supporting the historically under-served zip codes in the county.
More than $176K is being invested in healthcare access and navigation services to mitigate the health disparities in our community. WUMCO Help and American Red Cross are expanding services and care to historically underserved communities. JSSA, CaringMatters, Family Services’ Thriving Germantown program, and CCACC are providing care navigation resources for seniors, families, and patients managing cancer treatments and chronic diseases. Jewish Council for the Aging is bringing their Kensington Club model to Germantown for the first time ever, expanding vital services for our aging population.
$98K will support specialty care services in Montgomery County. Both American Diversity Group and the Maryland Foundation of Dentistry will be providing free dental services to those who would otherwise not be able to access or afford this specialty care service. Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and Prevention of Blindness Society will continue their efforts to ensure that students within the 27 Community Schools in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) are provided eye exams following their Department of Health and Human Services screenings. Students who require them receive two free prescription eyeglasses. We know from longitudinal research that this successful health intervention has a tremendous impact on a child’s confidence and academic success and the Foundation is excited to move this project to scale.
Knowing the critical demand for behavioral and mental health services in our community, particularly for our youth, HIF is dedicating $85K to #4 nonprofit partners focusing on mental health and wellness. Community Bridges, Crittenton Services, and Our Minds Matter will continue their work engaging MCPS youth to build their wellness and resiliency. Warrior Canine Connection, and their partnership with The Cohen Veterans Clinic at Easter Seals, will impact the military and veteran community using their Mission Based Trauma Recovery model and service dogs. In conjunction with the $85K in this cycle, in July 2022, HIF awarded $75k to Identity, Inc. to develop a proof-of-concept pilot—Trauma-Informed Eco-System—at Magruder and Seneca Valley High Schools.
$70K will be supporting #4 nonprofits to address food insecurity in the County – AfriThrive, American Muslim Senior Society, Yad Yehuda of Greater Washington, and Community FarmShare. These investments will increase access to culturally important healthy, affordable, and nutritious meals. HIF recognizes food insecurity as a social determinant of health that impacts our community’s health outcomes. It is critical that these awards closely align with existing systems in the County, centered around meeting the needs of our diverse community, and scaled the work of the Foundation’s existing food partners. In the last 5 months, HIF has also awarded a combined $85k to Nourish Now and Manna Food Center to address access to food items post-federal COVID recovery aid and to scale access to fresh and local produce to community-based organizations and the food distribution hubs.
Lastly, to address the need for a qualified healthcare workforce, HIF will award $75K to AsylumWorks, Meals on Wheels of Takoma Park, and EveryMind to provide paid internships and fellowship opportunities to HIF social work student scholars. These partnerships will concurrently support the social work workforce pipeline, connect scholars to nonprofits and potential employers, and scale the availability of behavioral health services to our community members. When you include the $1M 5-year installment to The Universities at Shady Grove and Montgomery College, the FY23 total Healthcare Workforce investment is $275K.
The HIF Board of Trustees and staff are immensely proud of the work being done each day by our partners. We know we cannot fund every application that comes to us, but we appreciate all the time and energy that went into each thoughtful project. The HIF team welcomes conversations throughout the year to talk about the Foundation’s strategic priorities and grant award guidelines. Parties can reach out to Jess Fuchs, Director of Grants and Community Impact, to learn more.
HIF Invests in Identity to Lead MCPS Eco-System Pilot to Provide Trauma-focused Training with Two School Communities
In July 2022, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) awarded Identity, Inc., a $150,000 grant to implement a two-year Trauma Informed Ecosystem pilot at two schools selected by the Montgomery County Public School system, Magruder High School (Rockville) and Seneca Valley High School (Germantown) starting this fall.
This pilot will encompass working with the entire school eco-system – students, faculty, administrators, families, and community over the next two school years to garner a better understanding of the impact of trauma exposure on students and the school community and develop with the school community practical skills, trainings, and supports to build a more positive school climate.
Phase I will engage the community to develop the workplan for the pilot so that efforts are being planned with and not for the community, as well as provide training on trauma for school personnel, students, and parents/guardians to introduce concepts of ‘trauma’ and how it influences actions and behaviors. During Phase II, each school will begin implementing strategies defined in the workplan and utilize a rapid cycle evaluation to adapt to the real-time needs and desires of the eco-system and share lessons learned with the community.
The University of Maryland School of Public Health and College of Education are the evaluation partners, studying how a trauma responsive community could encourage parent and student engagement; attendance of both students and staff; graduation rates; and reduce suspension and other disciplinary actions. Based on lessons learned, the team expects to share a model that can be adapted to other school communities and their unique eco-systems.
HIF is thrilled to invest in this cutting-edge work. “Identity is an important community partner and we know they will be able to hit the ground running with this Trauma-Informed Eco-system pilot. The team at Identity is already on-the-ground in the schools and a trusted member of our community. HIF looks forward to being among the partners on this journey with Identity, MCPS, and the University of Maryland evaluation team. We believe it will be a great success,” said Crystal Carr Townsend, President and CEO of Healthcare Initiative Foundation.
“Investing in the well-being of young people and the community that helps them reach their highest potential is an investment in Montgomery County. Especially at a time when school communities are particularly stressed, we are privileged to begin this journey with students, parents, educators, evaluators and investors to create a trauma-responsive school community that is unique to Seneca Valley and Magruder High Schools,” said Carolyn Camacho, Identity Program Director
To learn more about Identity and their existing Community Mental Health programs, visit www.Identity-youth.org.
Each spring, Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) identifies one to two nonprofits who exemplify volunteer service in the health and wellness space in Montgomery County. In the last two and a half years, our community has seen the tremendous impact of volunteers through vaccination clinics, food distributions, health clinics, and more.
In June 2022, HIF had the privilege of bestowing the Brooks Saltsman Award to Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and A Place of Hope. Both organizations received an investment of $2,500 to support their health and wellness programming. Brooks Johnstone Saltsman was a former HIF Trustee who dedicated her life to volunteerism. This award recognizing an outstanding nonprofit was created to honor her legacy.
Guru Gobind Singh Foundation launched into the nonprofit service space in March 2020, putting their Sikh principles into practice to help their community as the pandemic surged. Since this time, using more than #100,000 volunteer hours with #400 volunteers, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation has provided hundreds of bags of produce and non-perishable goods, and more than #345,000 vegetarian prepared meals. The Foundation continues to serve knowing that their community has ongoing food insecurity challenges. With this award and its investment, the Foundation intends to provide healthy meals and food to #500 community members while also helping to ensure their access to local medical providers for ongoing health services. To learn more, visit their website.
A Place of Hope is a new and mighty community service provider. A Place of Hope is also dedicated to addressing food insecurity issues in Montgomery County and committed to building a culturally competent healthcare workforce. Since their inception, they have provided meals to #2,000 members of our community while also offering care coordination of resources, training and employment supports, and vaccine administration. With this award and investment, , A Place of Hope will be able to offer Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA) training to #2 individuals from the black and brown communities in Montgomery County effort to address the growing demand for culturally competent healthcare workers! Follow their work on their Facebook page.
“The goal of this platform is to direct attention to specific health issues, educate the public around health, and support the work of local healthcare providers and organizations,” according to My MCM.
HIF invested in My MCM through our FY22 Capacity cycle to build this program to ensure that Montgomery County community members are aware of health and wellness news and programs relevant to them!
Throughout fiscal year 2022, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) invested $75,000 in small grants to #17 Montgomery County, MD nonprofits to improve and build equitable access to high-quality and comprehensive health and wellness services and programs.
Through the Foundation’s Small Grant cycle, HIF is partnering with #17 nonprofits to serve members of our community on programming for: children in the foster care system; young adults seeking careers in healthcare; pediatric care for Upcounty youth and families; mentorship programs offering haven for youth; and peer support and trainings for the LGBT+ community.
Over the course of the next year, more than #3,000 members of our community will be served with 61% percent of the awards being invested in youth and family services and 41% supporting behavioral health programming.
Two of the nonprofits, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and A Place of Hope, Inc., were selected for the Brooks Saltsman’s Award for their dedication to volunteer service and healthcare access.
We look forward to partnering with these amazing nonprofits!