The North Suburban WIC Mobile Food Market, a program of Hallmark Health System, has received national recognition after winning a Jackson Healthcare Hospital Charitable “Program of Promise” Service Award. As a new program, the Mobile Food Market was acknowledged for demonstrating a clear vision for addressing underserved community health and prevention needs. This is the third recognition for the market, which also received one of the six inaugural Peter R. Lee Healthy Communities Awards at the Massachusetts Department of Health 2013 Ounce of Prevention Conference last fall and was recently published in the American Hospital Associations’ 2013 Community Connections publication.

The monthly market is a partnership between Hallmark Health, the Malden Zonta Club, and the Greater Boston Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and one of the largest food banks in the country, to address the lack of access to healthy food for low-income families in several area communities. The City of Malden and other local social service agencies also lend their support to the Market each month.

The first market was held in August of 2012 and has been held monthly since then at Hallmark Health’s North Suburban WIC office, located at 239 Commercial St. in Malden. During that time the market has served thousands of local families that are considered “food insecure,” defined as having little access to large grocery stores offering low-cost fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet.

“The Mobile Food Market is an example of Hallmark Health System addressing a local problem by partnering with the Greater Boston Food Bank to bring healthy food to those in need,” said Eileen Dern, director of community services for Hallmark Health. “Food is one of the most important components of health. Anytime we can put healthy food on a family’s table we are improving their chances to live a healthier life.”

Mobile food markets like this provide a unique solution to addressing food access by offering, fresh, healthy food in a setting similar to a farmers’ market. Families are welcomed to “shop” and are provided with recipes for foods they receive, but may be unfamiliar with. The foods offered differ each month, but are always fresh or frozen and usually include fruits, vegetables, dairy and items like tofu and yogurt. Most families leave with about 30 pounds of food at the end of the hour-long market, which services hundreds of people each month. There is no fee for the market, but participants are required to pre-register.

Hallmark Health was one of five programs commended as early-stage hospital-sponsored programs with a clear vision for addressing underserved community health needs. At a banquet that was the culmination of the National Hospital Charitable Services Conference, each Program of Promise was presented with a monetary investment toward its growth.

“These initiatives are not alone in giving back to their communities,” said Charles
R. Evans, FACHE, chairman of the Hospital Charitable Service Awards program. “What makes each Program of Promise unique is their potential to impact their community in life-changing, sustainable ways.”

Jackson Healthcare instituted the Hospital Charitable Service Awards in 2010 to honor exemplary hospital-sponsored community programs, share their stories and make them models for other programs. Jackson Healthcare also uses the awards to cultivate a community of charitable hospital programs that want to encourage and learn from one another, and establish best practices.
Each nominee had to demonstrate excellence in at least one of five areas: community impact, innovation, collaboration, transferability and/or best practice.

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Hallmark Health System is the premier, charitable provider of vital health services to Boston's northern communities. The system includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford; Melrose Wakefield Hospital, Melrose; Hallmark Health Hematology and Oncology Center, Stoneham; The CHEM Center for MRI, Stoneham; Hallmark Health Medical Center, Reading; Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice; Lawrence Memorial/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs, Medford and Hallmark Health Medical Associates, Inc. Hallmark Health is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital for cardiology and Tufts Medical Center for neonatology and the Joslin Diabetes Center for diabetes care.

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