Food insecurity addressed by Health Department

WESTFIELD- The Health Department has taken steps to address food insecurity in the city and its schools in an effort to ensure that residents and students do not go hungry.

Supervising Public Health Nurse Debra Mulvenna said during the WDec. 11 Board of Health meeting that she has been having meetings with local health and school officials on the topic of how food insecurity is treated within the city.

“It’s one of the things the Health Department has been focusing on. Since we’ve been looking at it there has been a lot of push that food is medicine and that health centers should be screening for food insecurity,” said Mulvenna, “There are a lot of people out there who are working who have food insecurity.”

She noted that the Westfield Health Department is part of the Coalition to End Hunger (CEH), an initiative run by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts that works to change public policy and health industry support to better serve those in the area who may not know when their next meal will be. 

The Health Department is also a part of the local hospital’s Community Health Needs Assessment plan to address food insecurity.

“We are working with a few different groups,” said Mulvenna. 

She noted that she had also scheduled a meeting with the city’s school nurse liaison to talk to her about food insecurity in the schools. She said that she wants to know specifically what data the schools collect on food insecurity amongst students and what the reality of the situation actually is. 

According to the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment from Baystate Noble Hospital, 15 percent of residents of Westfield and West Springfield experience difficulty in getting access to healthy food. The report considers this number to be a high rate of food insecurity. 

“Planning decisions have led to parts of Hampden County being considered food deserts, which are areas where low-income people have limited access to grocery stores,” said the report, “Food insecurity continues to restrict the access of many Hampden County residents to healthy food. West Springfield and Westfield have high rates of food insecurity experienced by over 15% of residents in some areas of these communities.”

To Top