Public Health

We’re not only committed to our mission to end hunger here, but also to bridging hunger and health in our communities.

Lawrence Mobile MarketAdults struggling with hunger have higher risks for developing chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Children living in food insecure households are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly, and be hospitalized more frequently, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The health-related costs attributable to food insecurity and hunger in the U.S. have been estimated at $160 billion annually.

Taking Aim at Hunger and Health

As part of GBFB’s efforts to create a hunger-free Eastern Massachusetts, we have launched a public health initiative designed to support health centers in communities with high levels of food insecurity. GBFB’s Director of Public Health and Research, Kathryn Brodowski, MD, MPH, is leading the effort to work with the medical community to help patients at risk of hunger.

GBFB’s three-pronged public health initiative:

  • Establishes onsite, free produce-only Mobile Markets,
  • Encourages healthcare professionals to implement the Hunger Vital SignTM screening tool—two simple questions that identify food insecure patients, and
  • Equips healthcare professionals with a resources toolkit to help patients access food assistance.

GBFB began piloting the program in 2016 with two partners: the Charles River Community Health Center in Brighton and the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. In Lawrence, where medical staff began screening patients in August 2016, preliminary results indicate that 67% of the center’s patients are food insecure.

GBFB’s Mobile Market in Lawrence now serves an average of 400 households a month, and our Mobile Market in Brighton serves about 100 households. In March 2017, GBFB launched a third partnership with SSTAR Family Healthcare Center in Fall River.

Hospital-Based Food Pantry

In 2001, GBFB worked with Boston Medical Center (BMC) to establish the first hospital-based food pantry in the country. The pantry distributes nutritious foods that struggling families often can’t afford but are essential to building and maintaining health.

“The connection between food insecurity and health care is critical to not only identifying more people who are struggling to have enough to eat, but also supporting long-term health. Poor nutrition is often linked to many chronic diseases, which impacts one’s ability to be successful in life, work, school and beyond. It’s all connected. Our partnership with The Greater Boston Food Bank to open our onsite food pantry was groundbreaking – we are able to promptly refer and then connect patients directly with the healthy food they need. We are proud of this partnership and the good health care we are providing and hope others will follow the same model.”
-Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center

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