Community Organizations Join Forces to Combat Food Shortages and Chronic Illness | Pittsfield MA

Community Organizations Join Forces to Combat Food Shortages and Chronic Illness | Pittsfield MA
PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts —To combat food insecurity and chronic disease, the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, Berkshire Health Systems, and other partner groups have joined forces.

A Nutritious Diet Initiative

The Flexible Services Initiative is a free 10-week meal delivery and grocery program designed to make a nutritious diet available to everybody. In Berkshire County, people who suffer from chronic diseases and/or struggle to put food on the table get medically designed meals.

This is a MassHealth-funded initiative administered by participating Accountable Care Organizations, in this case, Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative.

Since the program’s inception one year ago, its staff has delivered 1,250 shopping bags and served 2,500 meals to more than 200 collaborative members around the county.

“I always heard throughout the whole pandemic that Berkshire County was special.  In Boston, they’re always surprised at how quickly we can mobilize our resources. As limited as they are, we really focused on changing the lives of people in Berkshire County, “BHS President and CEO Darlene Rodowicz said at a long overdue ceremony for the initiative on Monday.

“And I think this program is just an example of what that foundation is and much more that we can do when we put our minds together to lift up everyone in our community and make Berkshire County an even better place to live, work, and stay on a daily basis.”

Community Health Programs

It was also created in collaboration with Community Health Programs and the Partnership for Health in the Berkshires.

ServSafe-certified convicts at the Berkshire County House of Corrections on Cheshire Road prepare the meals, which are packed by Berkshire Fallon personnel in the former jail on Second Street.

According to Sheriff Thomas Bowler, the program allows those with chronic medical issues to consume a healthy, sustainable diet to assist in managing their ailments while also enhancing convicts’ lives.

“The Flexible Services Program allows our incarcerated population to improve on their own insecurities. It helps them grow as individuals, building on their self-esteem by having more confidence in themselves, “he explained.

“Our goal is to create stronger, healthier individuals inside our walls as well as a stronger and healthier community. That’s what we strive for. ”

According to reports, jail employees considered opening the Second Street facility’s doors to the project a “no-brainer.” Planning began about four years ago.

Bowler added that being a part of this initiative means a great deal for those individuals to be able to give back to this community.

For the 10-week period, participants receive 10 meals each week (five lunches and five dinners), and the grocery delivery service provides fresh produce and non-perishable foods worth around $45 per week. Big Y and Marty’s Local supply the ingredients and goods.
It also has an educational component, as community health professionals and dieticians provide nutrition counseling, assist patients with managing their diseases, and link them with extra supportive services.

“Food is medicine” is the Flexible Services Initiative’s driving phrase.

Susan Lampron, a team member, finds the program entertaining and gratifying.

“It’s a very good program.  It helps a lot of people, it touches a lot of people in the community,” she said. “It’s true, we are sometimes the only faces they see all week and I’ve learned a lot of life lessons along the way.”

In one year, the drivers together covered 8,000 kilometers.

The Data

According to a poll, more than 90% of participants thought the program was “great.” Data also revealed that the meal delivery program decreased their food insecurity by 48%, while grocery delivery is expected to lower it by 53%.

Superintendent John Quinn Jr. expressed gratitude to everyone participating in the effort and stated that the sheriff’s office is lucky to be working with them.

“Very seldom do you get a group of people that when they go out, they’re meeting people that a lot of people don’t have contact with,” he said.

“That just their friendly face showing up at the door, bringing food — and food will get you a lot of places— but to be able to stand there, come in, sit down, talk, go over what’s going on every single day is absolutely outstanding.”

The structure on Second Street had a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Mayor Linda Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, and state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and John Barrett III all showed their support.

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