Health, News

Lynn Community Health Center addresses food insecurity

This article was published 1 year(s) and 6 month(s) ago.

A line forms along Buffum Street on Saturday morning for the Lynn Food Market, an event to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the community. The market is the result of a partnership between the Lynn Community Health Center and the Greater Boston Food Bank to address food insecurity and promote better health in the city. (Paula Muller)

LYNN — To help address food insecurity, volunteers from the Lynn Community Health Center and Commonwealth Care Alliance distributed free, fresh produce at the monthly mobile market on Buffum Street on Saturday morning.

“Food insecurity is a pervasive problem that we see with our patients and people in the community,” said Mark Josephson, director of decision support at Lynn Community Health Center (LCHC), who has been volunteering at the mobile produce market for more than a year and a half.

In Lynn, one in five residents is food insecure, according to LCHC, and 76 percent of Lynn Public School students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Food insecurity subsequently affects people’s health. Members of food-insecure households are at higher risk of developing such chronic diseases as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) partnered with LCHC to reach underserved communities and distribute high-quality, nutritious food about four years ago. LCHC holds the market at the parking lot of 73 Buffum St. Four leads from LCHC help run the market: Lilia Bermudez is in charge of distribution, Iris Padilla oversees production, Lorie Martinez handles registration and Leidy Pimentel provides technology support.

Fresh fruits, vegetables and leafy greens are delivered on a GBFB truck, divided into family-sized portions and distributed to families. On average, GBFB supplies 8000 pounds of produce monthly and each family receives about 25 pounds.

About 350 families come to every free mobile produce market, said Josephson, and Saturday was no exception. That is why a team of volunteers usually prepares 350 bags of produce. The distribution used to be market-style when families were able to walk from table to table, but since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic volunteers started to assemble full bags themself. One person usually handles one bag, Josephson said, “to keep people as safe as possible.” 

Commonwealth Care Alliance, a not-for-profit, community-based, integrated healthcare organization, sends volunteers every month and provides reusable insulated bags.

“It is just a great thing to be part of, to put fruits and vegetables on people’s tables,” said Josephson.

The mobile market will be back to Lynn next month again. In fact, LCHC has scheduled free mobile produce markets until next September. 

The market typically takes place on the first Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. at the parking lot of Buffum Street, except on holiday weekends, when the market is rescheduled for the next week.  

To participate, residents need to register one time only at the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program’s office at 20 Central Avenue during business hours or at a medical- or behavioral-health appointment at LCHC. Each registered family is assigned a number and a ticket so that LCHC can provide total numbers of participation to the GBFB. 

Anyone, including LCHC staff and volunteers, can take advantage of this opportunity. There is no income requirement.   

“This is the way the Greater Boston Food Bank runs their programs. People’s situations can shift very quickly,” said Josephson.

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