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.

2014 outcomes at MGH Chelsea: 

  • 282 families received in-person consultation from the Food for Families Program Coordinator, a 20% increase over last year.
  • 4,492 patients were screened for food insecurity in Pediatrics, Adult Medicine, and OB. Of the patients screened, 20%  had a ‘Yes’ result, indicating that they were running out of money for food, and/or needed food assistance from a counselor.
  • In April 2014, we added Andres Lofrano, one of our Spanish interpreters, to the program part time to assist with the growing numbers of patients needing assistance.
  • Of the families screened for food insecurity, 238 received an in-depth, in-person consultation from the Food for Families Program Coordinator to assess their families’ need (43% increase from previous year), representing 735 people.
  • 282 families were seen by the program, and either received in-depth consultation (238) or assistance with a discrete and time-limited need (44).  All 282 families were provided information about local community food resources specific to their needs, such as food pantries, community kitchens, or bulk food buying programs. Of these 282 households, 113 also received in-person SNAP application assistance, and 82 (27% increase over the previous year) 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.
  • 33 participants attended comprehensive “healthy eating and cooking on a budget” courses in partnership with Cooking Matters Massachusetts.
  • 20 participants attended a pilot “Shopping Matters” course to learn about “healthy shopping and eating on a budget”.
  • 113 Families attended the new weekly food pantry at the Health Center, which distributed more than 17,000 pounds of food. 

Luz Betancourt

Phone: 617 887-3789