Spoonfuls Spotlight: Healthy Baby Healthy Child

January 8, 2024 Updated: February 5, 2024

Spoonfuls is the largest food recovery organization in New England. That’s in terms of geography, pounds rescued, and people served. Our partnerships with food retailers and community organizations across Massachusetts are key, enabling us to recover and distribute more than 4 million pounds of food to people who need it (and that’s this year alone). In short, we can have a bigger impact when we work together! (Read more about how we work.)

Among our valued partners is the Boston Public Health Commission’s Healthy Baby Healthy Child (HBHC) Program. Learn more about our partnership, and the impact we have together, through our interview with Shirley Shillingford, Pantry Coordinator, at HBHC.

Could you tell us about the Healthy Baby Healthy Child program? What services are offered to the community and families that your program works with?

The HBHC program provides home visits to pregnant and parenting families with a child or children under five years of age who are residents of the Boston area. We offer health, nutrition, prenatal, parenting, early childhood education, and more. Through voluntary and confidential visits to a family’s home, we get to know them and assess how best we can support them by evaluating the environment’s safety, the existing food resources for the children and the family, the health of the children, and more. Once the visit is completed, and if it’s determined that food and nutrition are needed, our team checks the food pantry to provide what the family requests. All HBHC services, including our emergency food assistance, are free to the public. If the mother or a family member can come to our pantry, they are welcome; if not, we deliver the food to them. Sometimes, we also assist in getting mothers back into school.

In what ways have Spoonfuls’ deliveries supported HBHC’s goal of improving the health and well-being of Boston residents?

At HBHC, it’s not just about providing any food. We check that the food we offer is good, healthy and holds nutritional value for the mothers and children receiving it. Spoonfuls comes here every week. [Spoonfuls’ staff] always talks to us to see what our food needs are, which makes a big difference in what we can later distribute to our clients. We know growing babies’ dietary and nutrition needs, and the healthy, delicious food Spoonfuls brings helps us meet those needs. They bring good and fresh food that we cannot get anywhere else. No one gives fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, milk, and prepared meals, as Spoonfuls does. Prepared meals are very important, too! If a mother receives a prepared meal, it’s one less thing they have to do to support their family and themselves.

It’s always exciting to receive a platter of vegetables or platters of fruits, too. What’s so good about them is that they’re always ready to go. They’re wonderful! Spoonfuls has been an excellent resource because they provide essential foods, which is vital for the work we do supporting mothers, babies, and families. It makes a huge difference in their health, well-being, and self-confidence.

Can you tell us what inspires you to do this work?

One thing that jumps out to me is the many people who come together to deliver this food. It often starts with Spoonfuls bringing us the amazing food they recover. We then work to sort it with food donations from other sources, keeping in mind nutritional value and freshness as possible. Then I have neighbors, and sometimes even the police, help us deliver that food to recipients who cannot pick it up for various reasons. It is inspiring to see our community step up to ensure our mothers and babies have access to the nutritious foods they need.

We know food insecurity is a multifaceted issue. What barriers do your clients face when it comes to accessing food?

A lack of job opportunities can be a barrier, especially when someone has just had a baby. Getting good nutrition is more difficult without the financial support of a job to purchase good food for yourself and your baby. Spoonfuls has been a great resource to bridge that gap. We go to every household to ensure that they get the food they need, and Spoonfuls’ deliveries help us do that.

Why do you personally care about preventing wasted food?

I care about preventing food waste because too many people face food insecurity to be throwing food away. Many people need food. It’s not right to discard good food when tens of thousands don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Throwing food away is terrible for our environment, too.

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