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Jefferson 'Spreads the Love' Through Service

Jefferson celebrates its 200th anniversary with the launch of the Bicentennial Service Initiative featuring a day of community service aimed at addressing food insecurity.

Philadelphia, PA (February 14, 2024) – Today, Jefferson hosted “Jefferson Spreads the Love” to celebrate the launch of an enterprise-wide service initiative that coincides with Jefferson 200, a year-long bicentennial celebration marking two centuries of excellence in higher education, healthcare, and commitment to community.

Aimed at addressing the social determinants of health, this first service project of the Bicentennial Service Initiative focused on reducing food insecurity, a growing issue impacting at least one in ten people in Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey.

More than 200 members of Jefferson’s diverse community of leaders, students, employees, and alumni participated in a series of volunteer events that sought to “spread the love” to patients and community members across the ten counties the organization serves. 

“Our Jefferson community is defined by heart and a commitment to service,” said Jefferson’s Chief Executive Officer Joseph G. Cacchione, MD, FACC. “Valentine’s Day provided the perfect backdrop to launch our Bicentennial Service Initiative, which is meant to elevate the incredible work our Jefferson community engages beyond the walls of our hospitals, operating rooms, research hubs, offices, and university. To begin by addressing food insecurity, especially at a time of year when the need is so great, reaffirms Jefferson’s focus on driving social impact, healthier communities, and true equity.”

Throughout the day, members of the Jefferson team volunteered on-site across four local partner organizations including Philabundance, MANNA, Share Food Program, and Grace Episcopal Church to prepare hundreds of meals for people facing hunger. Additionally, Jefferson’s own Ramily Market – a Thomas Jefferson University-ran food pantry – hosted a popup market in partnership with Sharing Excess to provide fresh produce that would otherwise be wasted to its students.

“Jefferson 200 marks an important moment in deepening our engagement within our region’s diverse communities,” said Dr. Keith Leaphart, Executive Vice President and Humana Chief Health Equity and Community Impact Officer. “This isn’t just an initiative for Jefferson; service is core to our mission. And, we are excited that in the coming year, Jefferson will engage our 8,300 students, 42,000 employees, and 77,000 alumni for volunteer opportunities that make a difference in big and small ways. While the Bicentennial Service Initiative is our formal call to serve – and we have set an ambitious goal of reaching 200,000 hours in 2024 alone – we see this as a catalyst for how Jefferson will expand our extensive partnerships with community well into our third century.” 

In addition to the volunteer events focused on food insecurity, the Jefferson community “Spread the Love” this Valentine’s Day through a series of activities across all campuses:

  • Candy Grams: Jefferson Health North region sold candy grams to raise funds for their “Discharge with Dignity” program, which provides clothing for patients who do not have clothes to wear home upon discharge.
  • Valentine's Day Cards for Patients: Employees and students made over 5,000 Valentine’s cards for Jefferson’s hospitalized patients that were hand delivered today.
  • Blood Donation: Jefferson is encouraging its community to donate blood in its Center City Blood Donor Center starting today through February 16, 2024.
  • Show Your Valentine's Day Scrubs: Jefferson Medical Group in the East Region is encouraging staff to wear Valentine’s Day scrubs as they come together to assemble care packages for patients.
  • Rose Handout: Jefferson Abington Hospital handed out roses and Valentine’s Day cards to staff and patients throughout the day.

Poor nutrition and food insecurity can lead to chronic health issues and much more. Last year, Jefferson launched a screening initiative to assess the health related social needs of its patients. Out of 250,000 patients screened to date, three percent self-reported that they experience food insecurity.

Jefferson is committed to connecting patients to available resources and addressing food insecurity within our communities through:

  • Asplundh Cancer Pavilion Food Pantry: The Asplundh Cancer Pavilion’s pantry at Jefferson Abington Hospital provides food for patients in need who are undergoing cancer treatment, and their families. Food pantry donations are supplied by staff, donors and community partners.
  • Fresh for All Program: Launched in 2018, this free weekly market is held year-round for the community at Jefferson Einstein Hospital. In partnership with Philabundance, the market provides grocery items such as canned food, fresh produce, dry goods and more at-no-cost to those in need.
  • MANNA: For nearly a decade, Jefferson Health Plans has partnered with MANNA to provide over one million medically tailored no-cost meals to Medicaid members managing complex health conditions. Since 2022, members recently discharged from an inpatient hospital stay have the option to receive medically-tailored meals as well. Participating members are connected with a JHP care coordinator throughout the duration of the MANNA program and beyond. This program has helped members reduce hospital visits, shorten lengths of stay and increase the likelihood of being released to their homes rather than to long-term care facilities.
  • Manna Institute Award: The MANNA Institute recently awarded $400,000 to Kristin Rising, MD MSHP, Clinician Investigator and Director of the Jefferson Center for Connected Care and Professor of Emergency Medicine to test and refine a screening tool to identify patients’ nutrition needs. The goal is to develop a process to make more efficient and effective referrals to community nutrition organizations for hospitalized patients in need of nutrition support.
  • Diabetes Care with Nutrition Therapy: After learning that patients with diabetes identified needing access to healthy food and nutrition counseling as primary barriers to diabetes management, Jefferson researchers launched a 5-year, $3.2 million clinical trial to test whether the delivery to patients’ homes of medically tailored meals paired with individual nutrition counseling given via telehealth, can improve blood sugar control.
  • Community Health Navigators: Our community health navigators work with local organizations like MANNA, Share Food, Meals on Wheels, the Coalition Against Hunger, and many regional food pantries to connect patience with food assistance programs.
  • Pennsylvania Hunger-Free+ Campus Designation: Thomas Jefferson University received this designation in recognition of its many initiatives to address hunger and other basic needs for students; creating opportunities for connection among student hunger advocates; providing resources and strategies for campuses; and supporting opportunities to apply for grants related to addressing food insecurity.
  • Ramily Market: Roughly one in three college students struggle with food insecurity so Thomas Jefferson University established a Ramily Market on both the Center City and East Falls campuses. Since launching these food pantries, they have supplied thousands of students with non-perishable goods and hygiene products, as well as grocery store gift cards for fresh food, vegan and gluten-free options. The Center City popup market, which operates twice per week, has served nearly 2,000 students this school year alone. Jefferson’s East Falls campus location is open daily and serves at least 100 students per month.
  • Share Food Program: Thomas Jefferson University students volunteer weekly at Share Food Program’s warehouse.
  • Philabundance: Since 2020, Jefferson Health Plans (JHP) and Philabundance’s Healthy Homes Food Delivery Program has delivered nutritious food boxes and healthy meals to JHP member households experiencing food insecurity. Participants in the program receive a weekly delivery of three meals per household member plus a grocery box including items such as fresh produce, protein, and dairy. Participants are offered a choice between regular, gluten-free, and vegetarian meals, which can be personalized for each household member. Additionally, Jefferson Health President Dixie James was appointed Chair of the Board of Philabundance in 2024.
  • Pathways to Housing: In 2023, JHP partnered with Pathways to Housing in Philadelphia to provide medically tailored meals to a select group of members. Pathways to Housing is a housing program for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness, substance use diagnoses, or both.
  • Fresh to You, A Farm to Families Initiative with St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children. St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children identifies JHP families eligible for their Fresh to You Program through their dental health initiatives. Participating families receive a weekly delivery to their home of fresh fruit from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, as well as assorted vegetables and eggs from Carversville Farm Foundation and Procacci Bros Produce.
  • Fresh RX – Go for the Greens Program: This onsite garden in Norristown is maintained by volunteer staff and supported by community partners. Enrolled families learn gardening tips and receive fresh produce, healthy recipes, cooking instruction and physical activity sessions in English and Spanish. Each year the garden yields approximately 500 pounds of fresh produce that are distributed to over 150 families.
  • Food Recovery Partnership: The six Jefferson Health - North region hospitals partner with, which connects organizations with surplus food to communities impacted food insecurity. Surplus food from nutrition services, special events, etc. is distributed to community groups to share with local families in need.
  • Jefferson Frankford Hospital Garden: On a 50-foot-by-50-foot patch of land on its grounds, Jefferson Frankford Hospital planted a garden designed to help nourish those underserved in the community. Bags of freshly picked produce and herbs are offered to community members free of charge—along with recipe cards and cooking demonstrations—to provide wholesome food and encourage healthy eating habits.

Organizations seeking volunteers throughout 2024 can contact to be a part of this effort. For details about Jefferson’s storied history, upcoming bicentennial events, how to volunteer, or contribute to the Bicentennial Fund visit