Solution: Health Care Centers
Health centers provide a safe environment for families to identify themselves as being hungry, to discuss their struggles, and to receive help — without the fear of being stigmatized. Health centers can also provide a structure to easily enroll patients in SNAP/food stamps, just as they do for MassHealth.
In 2007, Project Bread partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Partners Community Benefits Program to develop and implement Food for Families in seven community health centers in Greater Boston.
Food for Families screened for hunger by asking the families of pediatric patients, who were being seen at the centers, a single-question — In the past month, was there any day when you or anyone in your family went hungry because you did not have enough money for food?
More than 11,000 families were screened through the program. An astounding 11 percent of the families screened positive for hunger. Nearly 1,500 received emergency food vouchers and were directed to with free or low-cost food resources and another 400 families were assisted in successfully enrolling in SNAP/food stamps.
This demonstration project made clear that health centers in low-income communities are a haven for families seeking food — providing food vouchers and referrals to long-term resources.