Good nutrition is essential for good health. But a healthy meal can mean so much more, especially during the holiday season. That’s why Partners HealthCare is working to provide Hunger Assistance grants to 18 area community health centers during the holidays.

Sadly, hunger is an issue that impacts many Massachusetts families. More than 11 % of Massachusetts families live in food insecure homes, which means that approximately 700,000 people in Massachusetts don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Food insecurity is not only stressful; it can also have a significant effect on one’s health and well being. Adults who suffer from food insecurity are at higher risk of suffering from chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension, and also at greater risk for anxiety and depression. Children from food insecure homes are at higher risk of slowed development and growth and are more likely to struggle academically.

Recipients of community health center grant
Codman Square Health Center staff receiving their
community health center grant.

This holiday season, Partners is providing 18 community health centers with a total of $34,000 in grants to help meet their patients’ hunger needs. This is the second year Partners has provided Hunger Assistance grants to community health centers. This year, our commitment has grown and will also work to support food pantries that are run by the community health centers.

“We know that these grants are important for patients and their families and appreciate the community health centers providing this service to their communities,” says Matt Fishman, Vice President, Partners Community Health. “Community health centers are indispensible in our shared mission to provide the best care—it is through the community health centers and their staff that we can help ensure that these grants are meeting patients’ needs.”

The grants are being used in a number of ways by the different community health centers. Some are providing emergency food assistance with supermarket gift cards, while others are providing turkeys with all of the fixings, and others are working to restock their food pantries in anticipation of the busyness of the season.

At Neponset Health Center in Dorchester, the grants have helped support the annual Thanksgiving baskets. “Many of our patients find it more difficult to make ends meet during the holiday season and it can be very stressful,” says Rachael Cooper, Manager of Client Services at Neponset Health Center. “The Hunger Assistance grants from Partners are essential in our efforts to alleviate some of that stress and we are able to provide a full, healthy holiday meal to many families in need.”

The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program also received a grant and that organization puts the funds to use in other way. “This year we are working to provide Stop and Shop gift cards as emergency food assistance to those that have recently lost housing. These individuals are trying to manage very chaotic and difficult situations and having access to nutritious foods will hopefully provide some relief,” says Nancy Paladino, Family Team Director at Boston Health Care for the Homeless. “Many of our patients are struggling with a variety of issues—food and shelter included. With this grant, we are able to help solve one of their challenges.” 

recipients of community health center grant
Recipients of a hunger assistance grant.

Community health centers with food pantries in operation are also using the grants to ensure that there is enough stock for their busiest season. “A number of patients make use of the food pantry, but there is a considerable uptick during the holidays,” says Michelle Nadow, Chief Administrative Officer at the DotHouse Health. “Many have additional financial burdens during the holiday season, and the pantry makes a big difference for them and their families. The timing of the grant fits right with our needs.”

Partners HealthCare understands the toll hunger can take on the health and well being of a patient. Programs like the Hunger Assistance grants program are essential for supporting community health centers’  efforts to provide the best care that meets all of their patients’ needs. Through this work, the life and health of both individuals and the community are improved.