Note from the Executive Director
Welcome to our Hunger to Health Collaboratory (H2HC) newsletter.
I am excited and grateful to have joined the Collaboratory in July as its first executive director. H2HC has been busy exploring, listening, and connecting with many of you. We have also welcomed a new staff coordinator, Shannon Bullen, and, in partnership with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) and Stop & Shop, convened a virtual panel discussion on food insecurity focused on engaging the business community. This discussion was the first time the Chamber has focused on food insecurity, and we look forward to more discussions with GBCC members.
As we segue from H2HC’s first phase (or v1.0, 2018-2021) to our newly focused and staffed organization (v2.0), we are looking forward to a vibrant 2022 and welcome your thoughts, engagement, and support as we work to reduce the health consequences of hunger.
H2HC Engages Greater Boston Business Community
In October, the Collaboratory partnered with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Stop & Shop to host a virtual special event, The Economic and Health Impacts of Food Insecurity: The Business Community as Changemaker. The event drew more than 250 Chamber members and other interested participants.
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) opened the panel moderated by flowetik CEO Zamawa Arenas. Stop & Shop President Gordon Reid, Federal Reserve Bank EVP Prabal Chakrabarti, and McKinsey Partner Megan Greenfield discussed the urgency and criticality of the business community developing a shared plan and working together to address food insecurity. “We’ve been challenged, but building a more robust ecosystem will sustain food security and happy and healthy people. It takes a village, and we all need to do our part,” said Greenfield.
Stop & Shop Leads the Way in Regional Innovation
From a new program making it possible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to pay with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card when placing online orders to a creative, system-wide focus on reducing food waste, Stop & Shop is leading the industry in innovation. “These programs are an integral part of Stop & Shop’s commitment to serving our communities,” said Stop & Shop President Gordon Reid. “We’re proud to make access to healthy food more accessible and convenient, especially for those impacted by the pandemic.”
Additional community benefit programs include:
- Managing 50 food pantries in schools and on college campuses across the Northeast; the Stop & Shop School Food Pantry Program will expand to more than 100 schools in 2022 to support students facing food insecurity.
- Offering nutrition education at its Grove Hall store in Roxbury and working with community partners like the Dimock Center to help ensure healthy food access in the neighborhood.
- Partnering with Flashfood as the startup’s first retail partner in Massachusetts on a technology application pilot to reduce food waste and make fresh, healthy foods more affordable.
Stop & Shop’s generous leadership positively impacts communities across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
H2HC-Supported Research Informs MA Emergency Food Policy
In 2020, the University of Vermont (UVT), in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, created and launched a survey to measure the impact of COVID-19 on food access in Vermont. To understand this issue nationally, UVT created the National Food Access and COVID Research Team (NFACT). Researchers have now used the UVT survey in 15 states to monitor food assistance use, barriers, and facilitators. H2HC has supported research by both The Greater Boston Food Bank and Connecticut FoodShare, the only two food banks involved in NFACT research.
The MA report, “Gaps in Food Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Massachusetts”, was released in spring 2021 and was cited by The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, WBUR, and the Boston Business Journal. Through briefings to the MA Food System Caucus, MA federal delegation staffers, the MA Food Security Task Force, and the Boston Food Access Council, the research helped inform MA emergency food policy. H2HC is now supporting a second round of research.
Findings in the CT report (highlighted in image at right), “Food Access in Connecticut: One Year into the COVID-19 Pandemic”, are consistent with those of the USDA: our most vulnerable neighbors have experienced the greatest changes in food insecurity since the pandemic.
Bipartisan Bill Calls for White House Conference on Food
On Oct. 26, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mike Braun (R-IN) and U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill calling for a national White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health.
In a press conference announcing the bill, Sen. Booker said, “The way our food system operates is a choice, and we can change it. Choose health, choose vitality, and choose an American life that is abundant.” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley joined Booker and McGovern’s call to President Biden to partner on convening a conference. “This is a humanitarian crisis that demands a humanitarian response,” she said.
It Has Been 52 Years…
The only White House conference on hunger was in 1969, and it had an enormous and lasting impact impact on national food and hunger legislation. Highlights of the conference are captured in Tufts Friedman School’s 50th anniversary video, “Hungry: How the 1969 Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health Changed the Course of US Food Policy”.
Grantee Spotlight: Let’s Talk About Food
Launched by journalist Louisa Kasdon in fall 2020 with H2HC funding support, the podcast Let’s Talk About Food is now averaging 9k downloads every week. “The H2HC grant was crucial for getting the podcast off the ground; it allows me to tell a whole range of food stories,” Kasdon said. Past episodes have featured GBFB President and CEO Catherine D’Amato in “Feeding the Many” and Community Servings CEO David Waters in “When the Community Needs Feeding“. Episode 30 on Oct. 14 featured Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and leader of the Congressional Hunger Caucus Rep. James McGovern.
H2HC Staff Volunteer at GBFB
In October the H2HC team joined other new GBFB staff for a day of volunteering at The Food Bank. Volunteers packed more than 300 family meal boxes and assembled hundreds of cardboard boxes.
H2HC Welcomes New Staff
Shannon Bullen, H2HC’s new coordinator, graduated from the College of Charleston in 2020 with a degree in History and a minor in International Studies. In August, she completed a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA, during which she served as Community Engagement Coordinator at Our Neighbors’ Table, an H2HC grantee and GBFB member agency.