Food for Families

Food for Families identifies pediatric patients and their families in Chelsea and Revere who have experienced hunger and food insecurity and connects them to food resources that ensure access to healthy foods.

Hunger and food insecurity negatively impact health and are associated with a higher risk of chronic health problems. The Food for Families program, developed after a Mass General Hospital study, strives to reduce the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger among MGH Chelsea and MGH Revere patients and ultimately improve health. To achieve this goal, the program tracks the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger among primary care patients, and provides patients with concrete resources to improve their access to healthy food. A family with “food insecurity” had at least one person in the household who went hungry in the past month.

Food for Families screens patients in three health center clinical departments for hunger and food insecurity via a simple, single-question form that patients fill out while waiting for their appointments. Staff follows up with patients who screen positively for food insecurity and connects families to local nutrition resources such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the Food Stamp Program), WIC, food pantries, and community meals. In addition, Food for Families works to educate providers within the health center about how food insecurity impacts MGH Chelsea patients and builds relationships with leaders in the community such as food pantry directors, social service agency staff, and SNAP benefit advocates to ensure continued access for patients seeking food resources.

2013 outcomes at MGH Chelsea:

  • 3,153 patients were screened for food insecurity in Pediatrics and OB. Of the patients screened, 18% (560) had a ‘Yes’ result, indicating that they were running out of money for food, and/or needed food assistance from a counselor. Of the families screened for food insecurity, 135 received an in-depth, in-person consultation from the Food for Families Program Coordinator to assess the families’ needs, representing 215 adults and 205 children.
  • 226 families were seen by the program, and either received in-depth consultation (135) or assistance with a discrete and time-limited need (91). All families were given information about local community food resources specific to their needs, such as food pantries, community kitchens, or bulk food buying programs. Of these 226 households, 161 also received in-person SNAP application assistance, and 60 households received emergency gift cards to purchase food at a local grocery store.
  • 100% of all patients who screened positive for food insecurity received a follow-up phone contact to schedule an in-person interview. All patients who came in for in-person interviews received information about food resources.
  • 58 participants attended comprehensive “healthy eating and cooking on a budget” courses in partnership with Cooking Matters Massachusetts; seven participants attended a pilot “Shopping Matters” course to learn about “healthy shopping and eating on a budget”; and 22 families attended the new weekly food pantry at the Health Center.

2013 outcomes at MGH Revere:

  • 2325 families were screened for hunger in the Pediatrics and Medicine-Pediatrics Departments, an average of 194 families per month.
  • 100% of all 148 Pediatrics and Medicine-Pediatrics patients were interviewed following a positive screen. All patients were either assisted in applying for SNAP benefits or were given resources in the community to help lower the amount of food insecurity in Revere. All hunger insecure patients were given information on their local food pantries and $2-a-bag programs.
  • Families were assisted in applying for SNAP benefits through applications or through contact with existing Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) workers. Some families who screened positive for hunger were awarded SNAP benefits in the past but needed help navigating the DTA program and submitting supporting documentation to continue receiving their benefits.
  • MGH Revere received $2,000 from Project Bread to purchase food vouchers for participants who were ineligible for food stamps and who were in emergency hunger situations.
  • MGH Revere Food for Families program received $500 from MGH Center for Community Health Improvement to support hunger assistance efforts in the community. The money was used to assemble Thanksgiving baskets for some of our neediest families.

Luz Betancourt

Phone: 617 887-3789