Seeking to help address the high and rising rates of food insecurity and disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities, Mass General Brigham today announced that it is working with 12 community organizations to address unmet needs facing Mass General Brigham patients and members of our communities. Mass General Brigham has provided a total of more than $520,000 in funding to support and partner with the programs.
“Among the various social determinants of health—the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play—food insecurity has one of the most extensive impacts on the overall health of individuals, and it can affect anyone. Although food insecurity is prevalent in low income communities, sudden events like severe illness or unemployment can make anyone vulnerable. It is a pressing issue that has only gotten worse during the pandemic,” says Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH, Chief Community Health Equity Officer for Mass General Brigham. “We are thrilled to be able to contribute to local organizations that are reaching people in the communities we serve.”
Food insecurity is on the rise, with people of color and families with children disproportionately impacted. According to a recent survey by the Greater Boston Food Bank, 1.6 million people in Massachusetts report that they have been unable to get enough to eat during the pandemic—an increase of 55% from 2019 to 2020.
The survey also reveals that people with food-insecurity are not reaching out for help. Only half of adults experiencing food insecurity are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and only a third of adults experiencing food insecurity are using food pantries.
Mass General Brigham Community Health teams are deeply involved with community partners to actively improve food access and capacity. In many cases, they are on the front lines, working with community partners to plan and implement these important food initiatives.
Mass General Brigham teams have long relationships with organizations and advocates in the food security ecosystem. They partner with community groups and are actively doing the work alongside them to identify the needs in the community and helping with operational needs such SNAP enrollment efforts.
“The Mass General Brigham grant will help transform the Revere Food Pantry into a lasting feature of the Revere Healthcare Center patient experience,” says Jacob Mirsky, MD, MA, Medical Director of the MGH Revere HealthCare Center Food Pantry, one of the organizations receiving funding. “While the Food Pantry is currently occupying temporary space that is available due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our future requires a permanent investment in our mission and our patients. As we expand into newly renovated space, with larger storage capacity and a brand-new teaching kitchen, we will showcase the power of implementing "Food Is Medicine" in the community, and hopefully serve as a model for our colleagues across Mass General Brigham.”
My Brother’s Table, a meal and nutrition organization in Lynn, is another one of the grant recipients. My Brother’s Table is using funds from their grant to prepare, serve and promote the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Specifically, they are focused on preparing fruits and vegetables so they can be consumed by people who have difficulties consuming these foods due to dental issues, for example, painful or missing teeth. Roughly 8% of Americans over 45 have lost all of their teeth and 42% of low-income individuals have difficulty biting or chewing due to painful or missing teeth.
“I think being able to partner with an organization like Mass General Brigham who has expertise and resources is wonderful. My Brother’s Table is not a major health institution. But, I think by partnering with a major health institution we can show people that there is this really important nexus between what happens in the community and people’s health,” says Dianne Kuzia Hills, Executive Director of My Brother's Table.
“Healthcare isn't just hospitals and specialists and all the things people think of when they think of Mass General Brigham. Healthcare is in the community—the things people consume, the air they breathe, the places where they live and sleep. That's how we, day-to-day, can impact someone's health.”
Funding was distributed based on applications that showed an organization’s ability to support and expand existing commitment to food access; improve geographic reach of food access partnerships; and reach vulnerable populations most at risk for food insecurity.
The goal is to enhance the program and design opportunities to increase food security in order to improve chronic disease management and outcomes. In the coming year, Mass General Brigham will continue to look for ways to work with community partners to provide food, educational resources, and engage in deeper partnerships to address food insecurity in our communities.
Full list of grant recipients:
Chelsea Hunger Network, Chelsea
My Brother's Table, Lynn
MGH Revere Health Center, Revere
First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plan
Healthy Waltham, Waltham
Newton Food Pantry, Newton
Amherst Survival Center, Amherst
Waltham Boys and Girls Club, Waltham
Northampton Survival Center, Northampton
Grow Food Northampton, Northampton
Neighborhood Food Action Collaborative, Boston
Easthampton Community Center, Easthampton
Mass General Brigham:
Bridget Perry firstname.lastname@example.org
Mass General Brigham is an integrated academic health care system, uniting great minds to solve the hardest problems in medicine for our communities and the world. Mass General Brigham connects a full continuum of care across a system of academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, physician networks, community health centers, home care, and long-term care services. Mass General Brigham is a nonprofit organization committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. In addition, Mass General Brigham is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations with several Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals. For more information, please visit massgeneralbrigham.org.