Farm-to-Health Center Initiative

The Farm-to-Health Initiative is a partnership between UMass Medical School and the Community Harvest Project (CHP) aimed at reducing rates of food insecurity by increasing patient access to and consumption of fresh produce. We educate physicians and staff to screen patients at the Family Health Center of Worcester (FHCW) for food insecurity and refer them to the appropriate community support programs. Each week during the growing season, we provide patients with high quality, fresh produce free of charge. Finally, through our programs, patients have access to education about healthy cooking, nutrition, and community food security resources.

Visit the Farm-to-Health Initiative's website: www.community-harvest.org/healthcenter

Summer of 2014:  In the summer of 2014, a total of 6,972 pounds of vegetables were delivered to patients at FHCW. An average of 116 families collected vegetables each week. We surveyed patients at each visit and found that 48% of recipients had never been asked about their food situation by their health care provider and 52% had worried about running out of food in the last month. To educate providers about food insecurity we had a Family Medicine ground rounds about the health impact of food insecurity in October and met with providers at FHCW in November to discuss integrating food insecurity screening into the clinic flow.

What's next:  Up next, we are planning cooking classes for health center and planning for the 2015 vegetable distribution and working with physicians to incorporate food insecurity screening into the health center. We are also working with the Community Harvest Project (CHP) to raise money to fund the 2015 growing season. CHP was recently gifted a 75 acre farm in Harvard, MA including 35 acres of apple orchards, to allow them to increase the food the grow for hunger relief.

Why target food insecurity?

Food insecurity is limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods; it is both common and related to a range of negative health outcomes. Food insecurity is experienced by 11.5% of households in Massachusetts and nearly 67% of patients at FHCW. When compared to food secure children, children from food insecure households are hospitalized with greater frequency, are more likely to be in fair or poor health and have higher rates of behavioral and mental health problems. In adults, food insecurity has been linked with an increase in rates of both diabetes and depression.

How can you help?

The Farm to Health Center Initiative is now accepting donations to help fund its second year of work. Donations to the Farm to Health Center Initiative can be made through the Community Harvest Project's websitewww.community-harvest.org.

Not be able to make a direct financial contribution? No worries! There are several other ways you can help us provide food and educational resources to those in need, such as: 

  • Host a fundraising event at your business! This could mean anything from contributing a small portion of an evening’s sales to hosting an open mic night at which donations were collected.
  • Keep a donation box and some information about our program near your registers! We will provide you with the box and flyers and come by weekly to collect any donations you receive.
  • Volunteer with CHP! All of the produce we distribute is able to be given to patients for free because of the work of volunteers at the farm. For more information about arranging a volunteer visit, go to: http://www.community-harvest.org/get-involved/volunteer 
Contact us

For questions or more information about the Farm to Health Center Initiative, please contact:

Kathryn Bailey (UMMS, Class of 2016):  Kathryn.Bailey@umassmed.edu
Rachel Erdil (UMMS, Class of 2016):   Rachel.Erdil@umassmed.edu
Liz Rosen (UMMS, Class of 2017):  Elizabeth.Rosen@umassmed.edu


modified 12.4.2014cjb