By: Matt Fishman
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and families, we are mindful of the challenges and stress the holidays can bring for some of the families in our communities.
One of those challenges is hunger.
This holiday season we’re helping to address this issue and providing grants - $10,000 in total - to community health centers to ensure that their patients have a little more food on their tables. These grants are an expansion of our commitment to fighting hunger and food insecurity. During the summer months, we collaborate with Project Bread to bring more than 450,000 meals to children throughout the communities we serve.
The hunger assistance grants will help health centers to provide quality, coordinated care that includes helping fill the hunger gap and making sure patients have enough to eat.
Caring for the Whole Community
At Partners HealthCare, we respect the powerful role a health center can play in its community, and we recognize health centers as indispensable in our shared mission to provide the best and most appropriate care. With these grants, the health centers determine how they can best help their patients. Some are using the grants to distribute Thanksgiving baskets, while others are using the additional resources to provide emergency food assistance in the form of supermarket gift cards.
Since the economic downturn of 2008, hunger in Massachusetts has increased considerably—the rate of hungry families has grown by over 43 percent since the onset of the recession. Right now, 11.8 percent of Massachusetts families are experiencing some form of food insecurity.
And this past month, there was a considerable reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, which impacted over 47 million people in the United States. These numbers mean more than just grumbling stomachs.
How Hunger Impacts Health
Hunger has a detrimental impact on the overall health status of an individual and the consequences of hunger extend far beyond the obvious, immediate physical discomfort. Hunger and food insecurity can lead to a host of both physical and mental health problems. People from food insecure homes are at higher risk for suffering from chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension, and are also at greater risk for anxiety and depression.
Anthony Stankiewicz of Codman Square Health Center said:
“Income and money worries drive many healthcare and lifestyle decisions and are a significant source of stress. Access to adequate and sufficient food can be a struggle, particularly during the holidays.”
Protecting Children from the Many Risks of Hunger
Children from hungry families are at much greater risk of slowed development and growth, which has implications for their health and well-being over the course of their entire life. When children are hungry they are more likely to get sick, as their bodies lack the strength and energy necessary to fight off illness.
Hungry children also struggle more academically because of missed school days and increased difficulty focusing in the classroom. Good nutrition is a building block of the strong foundation for a child’s ongoing mental, physical, academic, and financial success.
“We are so thrilled to have these grants, as it allows us to provide assistance to more families during one of our busiest times of year. We know that the right quantity and quality of food is essential for the health of our patients,” said Susan LaPaglia of South Boston Community Health Center.
Pictured above, left to right:
Back row: Kate Lufkin, Director of Social Services, South Boston Community Health Center; Bill Halpin, CEO, South Boston Community Health Center
Front row: Sue LaPaglia, Director of Administration, South Boston Community Health Center; Ann Brady, Board President, South Boston Community Health Center; Heather Gasper, Board member, South Boston Community Health Center and Partners HealthCare; and Maggie Corcoran, Partners HealthCare