LYNN — The passion for food equity among Lynn advocates was on display last Saturday for the Community Farm Pilot Program groundbreaking at the Mass General Brigham Healthcare Center in Lynn.
This important project is part of a citywide effort to address food insecurity in the local community.
The project is co-sponsored by Mass General Brigham members Salem Hospital and North Shore Physicians Group, working together with City of Lynn’s Food Security Task Force and the Lynn-based division of The Food Project. The Food Project is a nonprofit sustainable agriculture organization that advances community improvement and education and provides employment opportunities for local youth.
Food insecurity rose significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic and has yet to decline to pre-pandemic levels. From 2019 to 2020, local food pantries in Lynn reported a 400-percent increase in demand, as many in the community lost jobs and income due to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. A recent survey in the city reported that one in five Lynn residents faced food insecurity at some time over the past year.
“The Community Farm Pilot Program is an important way we can help patients and residents nourish themselves with sustainably-grown produce while helping to rebuild a sense of community after the social isolation of the pandemic,” said Dr. Christine Valdes, a family-medicine physician at North Shore Physicians Group and Salem Hospital’s medical director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “We are delighted to be working with the Food Project and the city to provide a space for healthy, sustainable food for our neighbors. This vital work is more important than ever right now.”
Salem Hospital raised more than $100,000 to fund the Community Farm Pilot Program through its Annual Golf Classic last September. Leadership gifts from the Eastern Bank Foundation and Commonwealth Radiology, as well as generous commitments from McCall & Almy and other dedicated supporters played an important role in funding the project.
“With food insecurity growing at an alarming rate, the community farm will build pathways for local families to access healthy food,” says Nancy Huntington Stager, president and CEO of the Eastern Bank Foundation. “We’re proud to support this important program and work with those coming together to make it happen. “
The groundbreaking Saturday ushered in the first phase of the community farm, which is being established at the Mass General Brigham Health Care Center in Lynn, an outpatient medical facility offering primary, specialty and urgent care that opened last year on the former Union Hospital campus.
The second phase of the project will expand the farm to the senior-housing complex, currently under development on the remainder of the former Union Hospital site.