Mass General Brigham Announces Commitment as part of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

Boston, MA, Sept. 28, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In collaboration with the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, Mass General Brigham is committing $8.4 million to promote nutrition equity and security, support food as medicine programs to tackle diet-related diseases, and fund food-related programming at local community-based organizations across Massachusetts. This commitment was highlighted at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health by the Biden-Harris Administration. 

The 2022 Conference is the first of its kind in more than 50 years. The White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health held in 1969 led to transformational programs like WIC that have helped millions of Americans live healthier lives. According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, 1.8 million people in Massachusetts experienced food insecurity, or 32% of the population. Massachusetts saw a 59% increase in food insecurity in 2020 and 2021, the highest increase in the country. 

“We know that access to healthy, nutritious food can have a monumental impact on patients’ health outcomes and it is disproportionately impacting underserved communities in every city and state,” said Anne Klibanski, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mass General Brigham. “Mass General Brigham’s community health teams are on the front lines working with community partners to combat food insecurity every day. We are eager to join this national movement to end hunger and the long-term health consequences that comes with it.” 

Within its own healthcare system, Mass General Brigham is expanding food access to patients through the MGH Revere HealthCare Center. Funding will support the development of a permanent food pantry with larger storage capacity and a teaching kitchen to help showcase the power of implementing “Food is Medicine” programming in the community.

“Mass General Brigham’s commitment is bold and ambitious, building the capacity of community organizations that have the best understanding of the needs of their residents and targeting the root causes of inequities through a focus on prevention and addressing the social determinants of health,” said Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH, Chief Community Health and Health Equity Officer, Mass General Brigham, who will participate in the 2022 White House conference. “We are committed to eliminating chronic disease disparities among our patients and in the communities we serve, and we believe these nutrition equity-focused initiatives combined with our broader health equity strategy will translate into measurable health impact.” 

In addition to the MGH Revere Food Pantry, Mass General Brigham is also committing $6.35 million to scale effective programs and strategies at seven community-based organizations. These programs aim to reduce food insecurity, promote nutrition equity, and administer “Food is Medicine” programs and medically tailored meals in Massachusetts. They include:

  • About Fresh: Funding will increase the capacity of the “Fresh Connect” program, enabling the scale and impact across Boston communities, statewide, and nationally. Fresh Connect is a tech-enabled food prescription program that empowers people with the money and flexibility to buy the foods they need to be healthy. Funding will also increase organizing and advocacy for the “Fresh Truck” which brings fresh produce to marginalized communities, and it will aid in the assessment of About Fresh programs.

  • Community Servings: Funding will allow Community Servings to provide medically tailored meals (10 meals per week for up to six months) for approximately 264 individuals with cardiometabolic disease. The focus will be on communities impacted by racial inequities. Mass General Brigham will collaborate with Community Servings to identify and refer patients and community members.

  • La Colaborativa: Funding will support the development of a new community-based commercial kitchen in Chelsea, Mass., that will be used to prepare and serve healthy community meals, host healthy meal prep demonstrations and nutrition courses, and empower local chefs to build job readiness skills and generate income.

  • GreenRoots: The investment will fund the creation of a Teaching Kitchen adjacent to Chelsea’s Urban Farm and Community Garden. This will be a central location for residents to gather, build community, learn how to grow their own produce, and cook fresh, healthy meals highlighting their produce. There will be a focus on medically tailored classes aimed to prevent and manage chronic diseases. They will offer community classes teaching culinary skills to local organizations, food pantries and restaurant staff, enabling workforce development opportunities to expand local entrepreneurship while promoting healthier cooking options.

  • The Food Bank of Western MA: The financial support to the Food Bank will help build capacity to prepare and deliver medically tailored meals and other services to members of the communities it serves, including nutrition education and referrals to social service organizations for wrap-around services, which will support and improve the health and well-being of its surrounding communities.

  • Salem Food Pantry: North Shore Physicians Group (NSPG) is partnering with the Salem Pantry to provide the local community access to free, weekly mobile pop-up markets. The number of families receiving fresh, free produce from the weekly markets has risen significantly since the start of the program in 2020. The grant will allow for the expansion of the weekly markets to meet the increased demand and allow the markets to continue through the winter months.

  • Phoenix Food Hub: The Phoenix Food Hub is a collaborative project spearheaded by Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) as part of the Lynn Food Security Task Force and involving many organizations across the city intended to bring together as many nutrition-related supports as possible. The investment will be used to build a 4,800-square-foot space in Lynn, Mass. that will offer a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen and food pantry, food distribution, meal delivery, farmers’ markets, nutrition screening and counseling, healthy cooking classes, and a variety of other support services.

Each organization has agreed to participate in evaluation and reporting activities to share outcomes, which will be used to measure progress toward Mass General Brigham’s goals of improving nutrition for those with, or at risk of, cardiometabolic disease and substance use disorder. 

“Our partnership with Mass General Brigham has helped us expand our ability to help the community of Chelsea and beyond. We are committed to helping people who are facing hunger and food insecurity by helping people get a meal to eat right away or a bag of groceries with fresh produce to cook later. We are especially excited to open our Survival Center and kitchen space where we also hope to teach community members about preparing healthy, meals,” says Gladys Vega, Executive Director of La Colaborativa, one of the community partners. She notes that this work is especially important because of the high rates of diabetes and hypertension in local communities. La Colaborativa is proud to be offering a solution.
 
“Our partnership is an excellent example of how large healthcare organizations who are invested in food access and nutrition can support agencies who have already established a programmatic presence in underserved communities. It goes beyond a funding contribution—Mass General Brigham has created a community of like-minded organizations. It is so helpful to be able to regularly meet with other non-profits doing similar work to review our progress, share best practices, and celebrate our successes together,” says Vega. 

Mass General Brigham is also committing to expand screening for food insecurity and maximize SNAP and WIC enrollment among its patient populations. Expanding nutrition equity-focused initiatives guided by a comprehensive health equity strategy will translate into measurable health impact, such as closing chronic disease disparities.    

These commitments are part of Mass General Brigham’s United Against Racism initiative, a multi-year, systemwide undertaking to address the impact of racism on patients, staff, and the community. 
The United Against Racism initiative spans three major focus areas: 1) Leadership, employees, and culture; 2) Patient care; and 3) Community health and policy advocacy. The hope is that these efforts will help advance the White House’s health equity goals of improving health outcomes for underserved communities and addressing disparities in nutrition security. 

Mass General Brigham has conducted numerous research studies on the impact of nutrition on health outcomes, including how nutrition and healthy diet may influence cognitive outcomes later in life, lower risk of prostate cancer, influencing response to cancer therapy, affecting risk and severity of COVID-19, and reducing heartburn, among others. Mass General Brigham is one of the largest hospital system-based research enterprises in the United States, with an annual research budget of nearly $2 billion. Currently, there are over 2,700 ongoing clinical trials to accelerate bringing new treatments and therapies to patients and the world.  

About Mass General Brigham
Mass General Brigham is an integrated academic healthcare system, uniting great minds in medicine to make a life-changing impact on patients in our communities and people around the world. Mass General Brigham connects a full continuum of care across a system of academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, physician networks, community health centers, home care, and long-term care services. Mass General Brigham is a non-profit organization that is committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. In addition, Mass General Brigham is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations and a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information, please visit massgeneralbrigham.org.

CONTACT: Tim Sullivan Mass General Brigham 617-952-5235 tsullivan11@partners.org