Cassandra Laverty | RN,BSN, Westfield Public Health
Member of the Coalition to End Hunger’s Service Integration Team
As Westfield public health nurses we not only see firsthand the impact food insecurity can have on health, but we also hear how prevalent food insecurity is across all age ranges from colleagues working on the front lines in the community. When conducting home visits, we are often faced with people who are struggling to make ends meet. We see individuals being forced to determine whether they will have enough money to pay for their medication, rent, and electric bill — and then still have enough left over to buy groceries. Often, they forgo food to pay for the medication they need or to keep the heat on in their residence. How can we expect someone to be healthy when one of their most important basic needs isn’t being met?
After joining the Coalition to End Hunger and attending several Service Integration team meetings, we decided we wanted to tackle food insecurity. We convened a group of key individuals involved in food systems in Westfield to find out what services were available for our residents. As a result of this meeting, we realized that a lot of what was being offered was unknown to those among the group. We determined to raise awareness of available programs in Westfield, by providing a resource list of places people can go, and agencies people can contact to address food concerns they may be having. Our hope is that this will help increase the utilization of, and access to healthy food and meals for our residents.
We created a double sided book mark that lists places where people, ranging in age from infants to seniors, can receive free food, produce and meals. With the widespread distribution of the bookmarks, across numerous locations, we are hoping it reaches people all across the city, and makes it into the hands of those who need it. Armed with this knowledge, people will be able to share the provided information with friends, neighbors and others who may need it. These people may feel “too ashamed to ask” — a stigma problem we are working on– or they may be unaware of the options available. We believe that bringing awareness to food insecurity is the first step in the right direction.