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.
- About this program
- In Revere, contact Anissa Ali at 781 485-6479
- Learn more: Food for Families/Cooking Matters designed a class for hard-of-hearing patients
Hunger and food insecurity negatively impact health and are associated with a higher risk of chronic health problems. Initially an MGH study that has led to a permanent program, the Food for Families program 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 in order to ensure continued access for patients seeking food resources.
Program outcomes at MGH Chelsea:
In FY 2012, 3,661 patients were screened for food insecurity in Urgent Care, Pediatrics and OB. Pediatrics and Obstetrics use a universal screening model; Urgent Care began screening patients the last 2 months of the fiscal year. Of the 3,661 patients screened, 25% (929) had a ‘Yes’ result, indicating that they were running out of money for food, and/or needed food assistance from a counselor.
- 380 families that were screened for food insecurity in out-patient medical practices received an in-depth, in-person consultation from the Food for Families Program Coordinator to assess their families’ need, representing 531 adults and 431 children. In addition to serving patients who are screened through the medical practices, Food for Families conducts “walk-in” appointments for patients who are referred from other departments, such as WIC or financial services. At times, patients hear about the Food for Families in the community or from friends/relatives, and in these cases they simply call or show-up. When this happens, the Food for Families coordinator will attend to the patient immediately if possible, or will schedule an appointment for a future time. In case of an emergency, the patient is given immediate short-term assistance, such as a food voucher and then directed to the Department of Transitional Assistance or the closest food pantry for additional aid.
100 percent of families were provided information about local community food resources specific to their needs, such as food pantries, community kitchens, or bulk food buying programs. During their first visit to the Food for Families program, patients also receive coaching and teaching about healthy eating. Patient told about the Shopping Matters Program, a tour conducted in the local supermarket with the goal of emphasizing techniques to shop for foods and maintain a healthy diet while living on a limited and/or fixed budget. Of these 380 households, 257 also received in-person SNAP application assistance, and 45 households received emergency gift cards to purchase food at a local grocery store.
54 participants attended comprehensive “healthy eating and cooking on a budget” courses in partnership with Cooking Matters Massachusetts. Topics for the course included: the importance of key food groups, understanding the Nutrition Facts panel, kitchen safety, meal planning, the benefits of eating breakfast, and direct experience preparing nearly 20 recipes.
20 participants attended a pilot “Shopping Matters” course to learn about “healthy shopping and eating on a budget”. For two hours once a month, participants engage in an interactive tour that teaches nutritional information in a culturally sensitive manner. Aspects of food shopping such as comparing prices, reading food labels, deciphering between healthy and unhealthy foods, and taking advantage of bargains are stressed while the group walks around a supermarket. Contrary to one on one consultation in the clinic, the tour offers the opportunity to put knowledge into practice while actively learning about the importance of making a grocery list, eating before going food shopping, and knowing which aisles to avoid.
Program outcomes at MGH Revere:
- In FY2012, 2753 families were screened for hunger in the Pediatrics and Medicine-Pediatrics Departments, an average of 229 families per month.
- 100% of all Pediatrics and Medicine-Pediatrics patients were interviewed following a positive screen. All patients were either assisted in applying for SNAP benefits or provided 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 two dollar a bag programs.
- 60 families were assisted in applying for SNAP benefits through applications or contact with existing Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) workers. Some families that screened positive for hunger were awarded SNAP benefits in the past but needed help navigating the DTA program and submitting supporting documentation in order to continue receiving their benefits.
- MGH Revere was awarded $2,000 from Project Bread to purchase food vouchers for participants that were ineligible for food stamps and who were in emergency hunger situations.
Phone: 617 887-3789