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Preventive Food Pantry: A Part of your Medical Care

Preventive Food Pantry: A Part of your Medical Care

In 2001, Boston Medical Center opened the doors to the Preventive Food Pantry after an overwhelming number of patients told their BMC physicians that they were having trouble affording nutritional food for their families.

Located in the Dowling Building, the pantry supplied food to 500 families per month in its early days. Today, it supplies over 50,000 pounds of food per month to more than 1,800 families in the Boston area community. That’s 7,000 people per month – 40% whom are children.

To access the service, BMC patients must obtain a referral through a screening process performed by their BMC primary care physician which includes an individual’s special nutritional needs and the number of people in their household. Every time a patient visits the food pantry, a note is made in their medical record. “This is a way for providers to see when a patient has visited or not,” said Latchman Hiralall, Food Pantry Manager. “It’s not just about giving out food, the pantry is a part of their medical care here at BMC.”

When a patient arrives at the pantry, their food options have been pre-selected based on the family’s dietary restrictions. Equipped with this game plan, they then choose from their options which include meats, fresh fruits and vegetables that are on their list of healthy options.

Patients can visit the Food Pantry twice a month, Monday through Friday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. On those visits, they will receive up to four days’ worth of food per household. Donated by a number of different organizations, the Greater Boston Food Bank provides the majority of the food with 12,000 pounds of food each week, while a garden on the hospital’s rooftop, run by the Boston Natural Area Network, supplies the Food Pantry with fresh produce.

“We do not prepackage bags of food,” said Hiralall. “If they look at the cart and notice they have a lot of one of the food items at their house, they can put it back, allowing us to give that food to another family and prevent waste.”

In the same year, BMC’s Teaching Kitchen was built to accompany the Food Pantry, and educate patients about how to cook nutritional meals at home. Tracey Burg, a Registered Dietician and nurse, provides tips on how to cook healthy recipes and runs classes for people with diabetic, cardiac, and hypertension issues, as well as pregnant women and those fighting obesity.

In 2012, Boston Medical Center’s Preventive Food Pantry and Teaching Kitchen was presented with the James V. Varnum National Quality award for their outstanding health care quality improvement initiatives.

To schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, call 617.414.5951 or visit their webpage to learn more about the Food Pantry and Teaching Kitchen.