Field Notes

Illinois Hospital Launches Food Surplus Project

MacNeal Hospital, located in Berwyn, Illinois, and part of Loyola Medicine, has launched the Surplus Project to package excess hospital and cafeteria food for delivery to nearby shelters and transitional housing.

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, staff volunteers pack individual meals and desserts—labeled with nutrition information, including allergens—along with beverages, fruit, vegetables, and other available food. The group packs approximately 75 meals each day, or 150 meals per week, adhering to strict state and local food safety guidelines.

“Despite careful planning, hospitals typically have extra food that has been thawed, cooked, and/or is ready to eat, but not needed,” says Jennifer Grenier, DNP, CNML, CENP, associate chief nursing officer at MacNeal Hospital, who oversees the program. “Our goal is to improve the nutritional health of the community. Through The Surplus Project, we are able to share excess food and beverages that would otherwise go to waste with nearby food-insecure families.”

Once the food is packed, MacNeal volunteers deliver meals to Housing Forward, a Maywood social service organization providing shelter and supportive housing in the western suburbs, and Housing Forward’s Sojourner House in Oak Park. Sojourner House is Loyola Medicine’s medical respite center offering housing to homeless individuals in need of healing and recuperation following hospital discharge.

“We know that hunger exacerbates a broad-range of health issues,” says Charles Bareis, MD, chief medical officer of MacNeal Hospital. “The Surplus Project allows us to provide additional support to Housing Forward and Sojourner House and the individuals and families they serve. I commend Jennifer Grenier for bringing this impactful program to MacNeal Hospital.”

Grenier, along with Nicole Wynn, DNP, RN-BC, manager of nursing excellence and Magnet Program director at Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) in Maywood, are working to bring the Surplus Project to LUMC. Grenier and Fabiola Zavala, MPH, director of community health and well-being at MacNeal Hospital and Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, are overseeing the program at MacNeal and Gottlieb.

Grenier and Wynn created The Surplus Project when they worked together at another local hospital. Since its creation in 2015, the program has launched at more than 17 hospitals throughout the United States, including Riveredge Hospital in Forest Park, Illinois, and Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

— Source: Loyola Medicine


New Risk Factors Linked to COVID-19 Infection

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, researchers have found associations between certain lifestyle factors and a person’s risk of getting infected. While it already has been established that those with type 2 diabetes and a high BMI are at greater risk of experiencing hospitalizations and other severe complications related to COVID-19, they are also at greater risk of getting symptomatic infection in the first place. That’s the finding of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine published in PLoS One.

Using data from the UK Biobank of 500,000 British volunteers over age 40, the researchers examined health factors in those who tested positive for COVID-19 and compared them with those who tested negative. They found that those who had positive COVID-19 test results were more likely to have obesity or type 2 diabetes. Those who tested negative were more likely to have high levels of HDL cholesterol and have a normal BMI.

“Certain baseline cardiometabolic factors appear to either protect a person from COVID-19 infection while others make a person more vulnerable to infection,” says study author Charles Hong, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and director of cardiology research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “But this study wasn’t designed to determine what factors actually cause COVID-19 infections. These are statistical associations that point to the importance of a healthy functioning immune system for protecting against COVID-19 infection.”

Hong and his colleagues controlled for potential confounding factors such as socioeconomic status, age, gender, and ethnicity.

“Our findings point to some healthful measures people can take to help potentially lower their risk of COVID-19 infection,” Hong says. “Controlling body weight is very important during this time, and measures to increase HDL levels like regular exercise and a diet rich in monounsaturated fats like extra-virgin olive oil and avocados might be helpful too.”

— Source: University of Maryland Medical Center