WellCare, USF and Feeding Tampa Bay Partner to Understand the Relationship between Hunger and Health Care Decision-Making across the Tampa Bay Area

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TAMPA, Fla., (March 20, 2017) — In an effort to help Tampa Bay’s most vulnerable populations live better, healthier lives, WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) announced today it is partnering with the University of South Florida (USF) and Feeding Tampa Bay to better understand how those with limited resources facing food insecurity make decisions about their health and health care.

“Many people don’t understand the scope of hunger and the fact that food insecurity is an ever-present, ongoing crisis in our community,” said Thomas Mantz, executive director of Feeding Tampa Bay. “Florida ranks fourth in the nation for family hunger, and in Tampa Bay, more than 700,000 people and 250,000 children are ‘food insecure,’ meaning they don’t have stable and consistent access to food.”

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To combat this issue, WellCare and Feeding Tampa Bay, the community’s largest food rescue and distribution organization, launched a one-year mobile food pantry program to help those in need across the Tampa Bay area access food in both rural and urban locations.

To measure the impact of the mobile pantry program, WellCare and Feeding Tampa Bay are partnering with USF to examine how food insecurity impacts health care decisions among mobile pantry participants. The one-year longitudinal study will use a mixed-methods approach using quantitative and qualitative data to:

  • Measure levels of food insecurity of mobile food pantry users who are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare
  • Examine the relationship between food insecurity and health care decision-making among adult participants
  • Determine if participation in the mobile food pantry program is associated with changes in food insecurity status and health care decision-making through time

“By partnering with WellCare and USF, we’re adding to our growing body of research to better understand the long-term effects of food insecurity, so we can ultimately change it,” adds Mantz.

“While there are a variety of food assistance programs to mitigate food insecurity in Tampa Bay, including food pantries and mobile pantry programs, very few have been evaluated to see if they work and how they might be improved,” said Dr. David Himmelgreen, professor and chair of the department of anthropology at USF. “We’re excited to work with Feeding Tampa Bay and WellCare to provide research that makes a meaningful difference in our community.”

“At WellCare, we understand that helping our members on their journeys to better health can often mean assisting them with the socio-economic challenges they face in life,” said Rhonda Mims, WellCare’s senior vice president and chief public affairs office. “People cannot prioritize their health if they have more pressing unmet needs. We are deeply committed to helping food-insecure children and families in Tampa Bay, and we look forward to sharing research results that can help improve efforts to address this important issue.”

The study, which runs through June 2017, will inform future research as well as the Hunger Action Alliance, a strategic partnership designed to find solutions to the complex problem of food insecurity. Study outcomes and results are expected to be released in fall 2017.

About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. WellCare serves approximately 3.9 million members nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2016. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company’s website at www.wellcare.com or view the company’s videos.

About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 25 research university among public institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.

About Feeding Tampa Bay
Founded in 1982, Feeding Tampa Bay is the largest food rescue and distribution organization in the community, serving a food-insecure population of more than 700,000 people in a 10-county area. Feeding Tampa Bay recovers surplus food donations from local growers, manufacturers, supermarkets, and organized community food drives and distributes it to those in need through a partnership network of more than 500 faith-based and other incorporated nonprofit hunger relief organizations.

Over the past five years, Feeding Tampa Bay supplied more than 100 million pounds of food, enough to provide more than 3 million meals every month to those who would otherwise go hungry. Feeding Tampa Bay was honored as WEDU’s Be More 2014 Nonprofit of the Year.