We improve food security
through innovative programs and
Since 2015, ABHC has led neighborhood-wide efforts to address gaps in healthy food access.
The Boston Public Health Commission’s 2017 assessment of citywide food insecurity indicate that Allston-Brighton residents go hungry more often because of the high cost of food. Nearly one-fifth of residents citywide purchased food that did not last and they did not have enough money to purchase more; in Allston-Brighton, people of color were more than twice as likely to experience this level of food insecurity compared to white residents.
ABHC’s Food Access Committee examines these disparities through neighborhood-wide assessments and strategizes responsive solutions with collaborative members.
The committee’s 2015 community-wide needs assessment found that 62% of respondents reported affordability as a barrier to healthy eating and 46% reported an interest in shopping at a neighborhood farmers market.
2020’s assessment results indicate that the primary barriers to food access to healthy, affordable foods are both physical and economic access. Similar to 2015, there is still a need for more affordable food access points in sections of the neighborhood that have not yet been addressed, especially in Oak Square. COVID-19 has exacerbated these difficulties, especially as family budgets, time, and public transit options have all decreased.
Spurred by results from the committee’s 2015 assessment, ABHC partnered with member organizations ABCD Neighborhood Opportunity Center, Brighton Main Streets, and PSF Community Center to develop and launch the a farmers market in Oak Square. Since 2016, the market has increased healthy food access in Brighton and fostered community engagement opportunities for residents and organizations alike.
In 2019, the market moved to Brighton Common and ABHC took on full management. The market saw a 16% customer growth and quadrupled the number of produce vendors.
During the Covid19 pandemic, we have ensured a safe and affordable experience for thousands of shoppers. We have also provided space for economic opportunity in challenging times; one quarter of our vendors are Boston residents of color and two vendors are Brighton residents.
With support from Collaborative members Franciscan Children’s, Brighton Main Streets, and the Harvard Ed Portal the market saw 53% customer growth, 54% vendor growth, distributed $7,000 in coupons in 2020. With funding from the Hamilton Company, we provided Chinese and Russian interpretation at the market for our customers.
If you are interested in vending at the market, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepared Meals Delivery Programs
From 2016-2018, ABHC coordinated, funded and implemented two successful meals delivery programs.
Massachusetts is the only state that guarantees shelter to qualifying families. Yet in 2014, only 4,885 of 10,050 families applying for emergency shelter received assistance. With demand exceeding the limited number of beds in traditional shelters, the state turned to motels to house families, sheltering nearly half of qualified families in motels rather than dedicated family shelters. In 2015, Allston-Brighton was the only Boston neighborhood that sheltered families in motels, and was one of the largest placement locations in the state. In Allston-Brighton, 118 families were sheltered in two motel shelters. Some families lived in a motel for up to four years, and the average stay was over a year. Motel shelter rooms present greater challenges and barriers to healthy eating than traditional shelters. Rooms have a microwave and small refrigerator but no kitchen, and families struggle to prepare healthy, affordable meals. Barriers to healthful eating affected family health of parents and their children. A team from Boston Health Care for the Homeless documented higher rates of over and under-weight children, as well as obesity, hypertension, pregnancy diet and other pregnancy concerns, diabetes, stress, sleep deprivation, depression, and asthma.
In 2015 ABHC formed the Committee for Motel Families to identify and address the unmet needs of these families. The committee included ABCD Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Opportunity Center, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Charlesview Inc., and Food For Free. Through months of mission-driven collaboration that kept the needs of families at the center of our work, the Committee designed and implemented Feastworthy, a three-month prepared meals delivery pilot program. The innovative program delivered ready-to-eat, healthy frozen individual meals sourced from food recovered from university dining services through Food For Free’s Family Meals Program. Feastworthy was supported with funding from the ABHC as well as Walmart Foundation and Sanofi Genzyme.
The goals of the pilot were to:
1. Provide healthy meals to families experiencing homelessness.
2. Collect baseline and post-intervention data, and any data recording dietary and health improvements
as a result of the meals delivery program.
3. Provide training and job readiness skills to a Brighton resident.
4. Design a prepared meals delivery program that can be replicated at other sites and in other communities.
The model measurably improved healthy food access for parents and children, positively impacted their finances, and reduced food waste. Over the course of the pilot, the program distributed 4,875 meals at one motel site in Brighton. BHCHP conducted a study throughout the pilot and documented a measurable increase in vegetable consumption. The program employed an ABCD client to distribute meals and manage the program on-site; he was later hired by ABCD.
Due to the success of the program, Feastworthy continued for an additional six months until the motel shelters in Brighton were closed in January 2017. During this transition, the Committee stayed involved in ensuring that families were connected to resources and that their housing concerns were respectfully addressed.
Contact us for more information about the program, research study, methods and implementation.
Meals Delivery at the Gardner Pilot Academy
In spring 2017, the ABHC partnered with the Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA)’s Adult Education Program in Allston to increase food security for its adult students and their families. Having successfully designed and implemented a program to address neighborhood food insecurity, ABHC and Food For Free worked with GPA to remodel Feastworthy and address the interests of ESOL students. We conducted a one-month pilot to determine efficacy in May 2017 and launched as a year-long program in fall 2017. The ABHC funded the program for the 2017/2018 school year and successfully transitioned the funding to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center to fund the 2018/2019 school year.
During the 2017/2018 school year, The Adult Education Program distributed meals to adult learners and their children twice a week. The program distributed 6,438 meals – roughly 200 meals each week that class was in session. At the start of the program, over half of the surveyed student population reported that they experience food insecurity. At the end, the surveyed student population reported that the program demonstrably improved their access to healthy food (see survey results, below). Students reflected that, “I come to Gardner to learn English and I leave with a meal every night!” and that, “I am glad for the food donations. My family is very happy.” Marie, a mother of two who lost her job at the beginning of the new year said, “I don’t know how I would make it through the week without these 8 meals. It helps my family.”