More than 11 percent of Massachusetts families live in food insecure homes, which means that approximately 700,000 people in Massachusetts don’t know where their next meal is coming from today. In an effort to address this crisis, Partners HealthCare is providing Hunger Assistance grants to 18 local community health centers during the holidays.
Food insecurity is not only stressful; it can also have a significant effect on one’s health and well being. Studies have shown that adults who suffer from food insecurity are at higher risk of suffering from chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension, and also at greater risk for anxiety and depression. Children living in food insecure homes are at higher risk of slowed development and growth and are more likely to struggle academically.
This is the second year Partners has provided Hunger Assistance grants to community health centers. This year, the $34,000 in grants will also support food pantries that are run by the community health centers.
The grants are being used in a number of ways. Some are supporting emergency food assistance with supermarket gift cards, while others are providing turkeys with all of the fixings, and others are helping to restock food pantries during this busy holiday season.
At Neponset Health Center in Dorchester, the grants have helped to fill the annual Thanksgiving baskets. “Many of our patients find it more difficult to make ends meet during the holiday season and it can be very stressful,” says Rachael Cooper, Manager of Client Services at Neponset Health Center. “The Hunger Assistance grants from Partners HealthCare are essential in our efforts to alleviate some of that stress, and we are able to provide a full, healthy holiday meal to many families in need.”
The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program is putting their grant to use in other ways. “This year we are working to provide supermarket gift cards as emergency food assistance to those who have recently lost housing. These individuals are trying to manage very chaotic and difficult situations and having access to healthy foods will hopefully provide some relief,” says Nancy Paladino, Family Team Director at Boston Health Care for the Homeless.
Community health centers are also using the grants to ensure their food pantries are well stocked this time of year. “A number of patients make use of the food pantry, but there is a considerable uptick during the holidays,” says Michelle Nadow, Chief Administrative Officer at the DotHouse Health. “Many have additional financial burdens during the holiday season, and the pantry makes a big difference for them and their families.”
At Partners HealthCare, we understand the strain that hunger can take on the health and well being of a patient. Programs like the Hunger Assistance grants program are essential for supporting community health centers’ efforts to provide the best care that meets all of a patient’s needs.