ONT’s 2020 Strategic Plan lays a Path to Food Security, focusing on the communities of Newburyport, Salisbury and Merrimac, where current data demonstrates greatest need. The core component of ONT’s success in creating a food-secure Amesbury and expanding regional food security is its strategic partnerships with public and private institutions and with private citizens. ONT has convened local leaders to form the Food Security Advisory Group. Members include Anna Jaques Hospital, Children’s Health Care, Mayor Holaday (Newburyport), Mayor Gray (Amesbury), superintendents and school personnel from the Newburyport, Merrimac, Pentucket and Triton school districts, the Merrimac Police Department, Pettengill House, Newburyport and Salisbury Councils on Aging, and the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Over the last 8 months, the Food Security Advisory Group (FSAG) has convened and declared food insecurity an important issue in our region. More importantly, the members of the group have agreed that time and resources need to be dedicated to understanding and addressing hunger and food security for all residents. Working through its Regional Assessment Working Group, member agencies and municipalities have launched the first phase of our regional food security assessment. Surveys are being administered at Anna Jaques Hospital, Children’s Health Care, local Councils on Aging, libraries and online to start to understand where and why local residents experience barriers to getting enough food and getting enough nutritious food.
“Current research shows that 80% of illnesses and hospitalizations are tied directly to the food that we eat,” shares Dr. Gail Fayre, Chief Medical Officer at Anna Jaques Hospital. “Our joint efforts will help inform best practices to address local need.”
Over the next two years, ONT and the FSAG will focus on uncovering areas of unmet need and developing creative strategies to ensure no one falls through the cracks. “Our region is fortunate to have a number of food resources available. The challenge is understanding why people do not or can not participate in these resources and if the existing programs are best suited to meet their need,” states Lyndsey Haight. “But we are deeply encouraged by the interest and commitment of local leaders to solve this problem.”
For more information about the Food Security Advisory Group or how you can get involved with the regional assessment, please contact ONT Executive Director, Lyndsey Haight, at firstname.lastname@example.org.