The Food Bank receives $129,250 grant from The Community Foundation

The funds will support an innovative program addressing food insecurity in our region

Dr. Vincent Biggs (right) and Ana Jaramillo of Holyoke Health Center discuss their partnership with The Food Bank and The Coalition to End Hunger at a special press conference last year.

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ Innovation Grant Program has awarded $129,250 to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to develop an innovative, scalable initiative to address food insecurity in the region. The award will fund a proactive intervention that brings together medical professionals, social service providers, and The Food Bank’s expertise to end hunger.

The program, known as The Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative, was designed to identify food insecurity among pediatric patients at the Holyoke Health Center (HHC) and connect them and their families with a network of community-based services to assist them with food and other needed social services to address the underlying causes of hunger and food insecurity — not knowing where your next meal will come from. Using nationally-recognized and -tested food insecurity screening questions, HHC’s pediatric department conducts the screening as part of the patient check in process. For those who screen positive for food insecurity, providers offer a referral to The Food Bank and briefly describe what the patient and/or their family can expect from the referral. Upon receiving the referrals from HHC, The Food Bank provides nutrition services (including SNAP enrollment, nutrition education and information about neighborhood food assistance) and offers to make additional referrals to a network of partnering social service providers.

During the 12-week pilot period that ended last September, pediatric providers served 2,543 patients. Sixty-one percent of those patients were screened for food insecurity and of those, 43 percent screened positive as food insecure.

Andrew Morehouse, Food Bank Executive Director, remarks “The Food Bank is well known for distributing healthy food to hundreds of thousands of individuals every year who go hungry or who are at risk of hunger on any given day, week or month. We also want to be known for genuinely advancing the second part of our mission: leading the community to end hunger. To do this, the entire community must come together to solve the intractable underlying causes that lead households to go hungry.”

The Food Bank is one of three local non-profits to be awarded the Innovation Grant by The Community Foundation.

“It’s been an honor to watch our grantees go through the process of piloting and developing their ideas, and we’re excited to see the impact their work will have,” says Katie Allan Zobel, President and CEO of the Community Foundation. “These are just the kinds of projects that many of our fund holders love to support; projects that see problems from a different perspective and create a thoughtful plan to intervene and make a difference.”

The Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative was developed and implemented by The Coalition to End Hunger, a collaborative network of leaders and organizations facilitated by The Food Bank to end hunger in our region. The Coalition’s three priorities are to provide integrated social services for those who need them, erase the stigma associated with hunger, and advocate for public policy solutions to address food insecurity.

The Community Foundation’s Innovation Grant Program is made possible by endowment funds established by philanthropic individuals, organizations and businesses to enhance the quality of life in the Pioneer Valley. Additional funds were provided by a group of individual Foundation fund holders who pooled donations to co-invest in these new projects.

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts encourages charitable giving throughout the Pioneer Valley and helps improve life in the region through donor-advised funds, grant programs, scholarships, and Valley Gives.