It’s a holiday tradition the Healthcare Transformation Initiatives (HTI) team at UTHealth Houston looks forward to each December. The HTI Gives Back event, in its 7th year, provides an opportunity for the team to gather and complete a generous task by giving back to the community.
This year, HTI selected Kids’ Meals as its nonprofit to support with time and resources. The mission of Kids’ Meals is to end childhood hunger, especially for children under the age of five who cannot access school-based, free meal programs. The need is strong: Harris County ranked #2 in the nation in 2021 for having the highest percentage of children living with food insecurity in highly populated counties. Kids’ Meals is working diligently to change that narrative by delivering approximately 7,400 healthy meals each day to preschool-aged children in Harris County.
“HTI leads and supports several initiatives centered on food insecurity, so our missions align,” said Robyn Harris, MPA, project manager with HTI, who coordinated the event and helped select the nonprofit. “Care teams in our clinics screen for food insecurities, too.”
Harris said UT Physicians patients who screen positive are referred to wellness programming and/or connected to vetted community resources.
Events like these allow Logan R. Thornton, DrPH, director of population health and evidence-based practice with HTI, to feel like she’s one step closer to what the care teams experience daily and make an immediate impact.
“Sometimes our role in health care service delivery is so removed from interacting with the ‘end users’ – the patients – who we are trying to lift up,” Thornton said. “Participating in the HTI Gives Back event is a reminder of who is on the receiving end – real people who are doing life, just like me.”
Not only does the “Give Back” celebration help the community but it also builds camaraderie for the HTI team as they take time out of busy schedules to focus on individuals in need – and have fun in the process.
“I am proud of our department who, year after year, choose to spend their holiday celebration giving back to the community,” said Sahar M. Qashqai, MPH, associate vice president of quality and strategy with HTI. “I am especially appreciative of Robyn who has taken the lead on organizing this event the last few years.”
This year, the team donated food and supplies to make more than 70 healthy lunches for children. They also purchased gifts and clothing for their adopted family with four children. Kids’ Meals identified this family in need as part of their Holiday Hope Adopt-A-Family program.
Harris said this annual event hits home for her because her family finds a way to give back to those less fortunate each year, as well.
“My favorite holiday is Christmas, and giving back makes the holidays even more meaningful,” Harris said.