Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hunger Prevention in Arabic

Food for Families/Cooking matters six-week course designed For Arabic-speaking patients of MGH Chelsea begins March 1


Food for Families/Cooking matters six-week course designed

 For Arabic-speaking patients of MGH Chelsea begins March 1

CHELSEA—February 28, 2012— Hunger and obesity are prevalent in immigrant and refugee families, as well as native-born families, in the US today. Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ conducts hands-on, cooking-based nutrition education programs that aim to reduce food insecurity and obesity by empowering families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals.

To meet the needs of the growing Arabic-speaking population in Greater Boston served by the MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, the next series of classes will be held in Arabic. The six-week course takes place on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., March 1 through April 5, at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club in Chelsea, thanks to a partnership between MGH Chelsea and the Boys and Girls Club. MGH Chelsea has partnered with Cooking Matters since 2010 to regularly offer courses to families most in need of information about buying and preparing healthy food on a limited budget.

“A Cooking Matters staff coordinator and volunteer culinary and nutrition professionals teach course participants how to select nutritious and low-cost ingredients and prepare them in ways that provide the best nourishment possible to their families,” said Melissa Dimond, Manager of Community Initiatives / Healthy Living for Community Health Improvement at MGH Chelsea, part of the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement.

Each course consists of six weekly lessons that combine collaborative food preparation—using nutritious, readily available, low-cost, culturally appropriate ingredients—with essential nutrition information shared through discussion, activities, and practice with tools like MyPlate and the Nutrition Facts Panel. At the end of each lesson, participants take home a bag of ingredients so they can practice preparing the recipes taught that day.

For this new course, Javad Rajai, MGH Chelsea Community Health Improvement interpreter and community health worker, reached out to MGH Chelsea patients who speak Arabic. He will provide technical assistance to Cooking Matters to adapt the standard curriculum and presentation style to be optimal for Arabic speaking participants, most of whom who have come to the United States from the Middle East and Northern Africa. 

About the Food for Families Program

The Food for Families Program at the MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center is a patient care intervention designed to reduce the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger among primary care patients, develop strategic partnerships with organizations and local agencies working to reduce hunger, and provide patients with concrete resources and strategies to improve their access to healthy food.  The program was founded in 2009 as a result of a six-year study conducted by Ronald Kleinman, MD, Chief of Mass General Hospital for Children in which eleven percent of families screened in the study between 2003 and 2008 reported that at least one person in the house went hungry because the family ran out of money for food.  Of these, 40 percent carried a nutrition-related diagnosis such as diabetes or anemia, and a significant percent of those with food insecurity were also obese.1, 2  

About the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI)

CCHI carries out its work in Chelsea, Revere, and Charlestown, where MGH has maintained healthcare centers for more than 40 years, as well as in Boston among youth, homeless persons and seniors. CCHI has partnered with the communities it serves to assess needs and create more than 35 programs that:

  • Reduce and prevent substance abuse 
  • Tackle the obesity epidemic by increasing access to healthy food and physical activity
  • Increase access to care for vulnerable populations such as immigrants and refugees, seniors, and homeless people
  • Prevent cancers through early detection and screening
  • Generate interest in science and health careers among youth



  1. Kleinman, R.E., Murphy, M.J., Wieneke, K.M., Desmond, S., Schiff, A., Gapinski, J.A. (2007). Use of a Single Question Screening Tool to Detect Hunger in Families Attending a Neighborhood Health Center. Journal of Ambulatory Pediatrics, 7(4), 278-84.


2.       Miller, E., Wieneke, K.M., Murphy, J.M., Desmond, S., Schiff, A., Canenguez, K.M., et al. (2008) Child and Parental Poor Health Among Families at Risk for Hunger Attending a Community Health Center. J Health Care Poor Underserved, 19(2), 550-61.




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