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A New Partnership Connecting Hunger and Health

SSTARThe Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) launched its third partnership with a community health center, offering an on-site, free produce Mobile Market as part of its groundbreaking public health initiative aimed at serving communities with high levels of food insecurity.

Our newest partner, SSTAR Family Health Care Center in Fall River, served more than 120 households, with a potential reach of 347 people, on its first day. Each Mobile Market participant took home 25-30 pounds of free, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Last November, GBFB and SSTAR staff conducted a one-day food insecurity screening of nearly 700 people visiting SSTAR’s addiction clinic. Unfortunately, 59 percent (about six times the state level) screened positive for food insecurity, defined by the U. S. Department of Agriculture as a lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

“We had the sense that this was an issue with our patients, and it’s been helpful to actually have the data showing it is that high,” said Paula Beaulieu, project director of SSTAR’s Health Integration Project and director of the Mobile Market.

Medical research shows that adults struggling with food insecurity are more likely to report poor physical and mental health, and have higher risks for chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and depression. The health-related costs attributable to food insecurity and hunger in the U.S. were estimated to be $160 billion in 2014 alone, according to a report for the Bread for the World Institute conducted by John T. Cook, PhD., and Ana Poblacion MSc. of Children’s HealthWatch.

On-site free produce Mobile Markets constitute one part of GBFB’s three-pronged public health initiative, which also includes screening patients for food insecurity, and a toolkit pointing patients to food pantries, government assistance programs, nutrition information and other resources in their area.

The Mobile Market at SSTAR provides fresh fruits and vegetables to patients treated throughout the health center and is scheduled on the second Monday of every month.

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