Delivering community benefit in New England

Gleaning 2016_croppedThe Healthy Roots Collaborative gleaning initiative in Vermont collected 10,600 pounds of fresh,
local produce for distribution to food pantries in 2016 and 15,000 pounds in 2017 (Northwestern Medical Center).

Hospitals across New England use a range of strategies to improve healthy food access and to curb diet-related disease. An exciting new resource released by Health Care Without Harm in early March highlights best and promising practices of hospital investments in community food systems across the country.

TheDelivering community benefit: The healthy food playbook” aims to support hospital community benefit professionals and community partners in developing initiatives that promote healthy food access and enhance healthy, local, and sustainable food systems. It is the culmination of over two years of research and development created with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The playbook offers resources pertinent to each stage of the community benefit process, from community health assessment to designing effective implementation strategies.

The hospitals featured are forging new partnerships to assess community health, developing innovative programs, engaging in policy initiatives, and leveraging their position and resources to build more sustainable and resilient community food environments. The playbook demonstrates the multitude of roles hospitals can play in programs from funder to founder to collaborator.

Several initiatives from New England are among the inspiring projects highlighted:

  • Northwestern Medical Center (St. Albans, Vt.) supports local farm-to-school efforts and offers food and nutrition curriculum to local schools.
  • Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital and Heywood Hospital, both located in Massachusetts, support meal bag programs, ensuring students in need have access to nutritious food on weekends.
  • UMass Memorial Hospital (Mass.) and Bridgeport Hospital (Conn.) participate in local food policy councils.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital’s Food for Families program screens for food insecurity and connects individuals and families with key community resources, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and food pantries.