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Medical Students Devote a Semester to Community Service

March 27, 2019
Baystate Health Fair

Medical students in the PURCH Class of 2022 received Baystate Health's 1st Annual MLK Jr. Semester of Service award to conduct a nutrition resources fair to be held at the emergency food pantry at Martin Luther King Jr Family Services Community Center in Springfield.

Navigating Resources for Healthier Food

The PURCH Health Fair will reach out to people who are experiencing food insecurity at a familiar neighborhood location and at a convenient time—while they are waiting at the food pantry.

A key objective of the project is to raise awareness of, and ease access to, nutrition resources such as the Healthy Incentives Program, which aims to increase consumption of fresh produce by SNAP recipients. HIP provides a dollar-for-dollar match when benefits are used to buy local produce from one of  500+ HIP retailers—farmers' markets, farm stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) farm share programs.

PURCH students, who have been trained, will be able to assist families in navigating the landscape of farmers markets, food resources, and healthy meal planning.

Community organizations, health providers, and local food resources will participate as well.

Tailoring the Fair to the Local Community

Topics for the education and activity stations at the Fair will be chosen to be relevant to MLK Food Pantry clients.

The medical students state that likely topics include diabetes screening and diet-related cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, citing recent results of Baystate Medical Center’s Community Health Needs Assessment that showed heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are significant health issues in Hampden County. 

The Fair is planned for the end of May when it will be able to reach school-aged children participating in summer programs at the MLK community center. It is also timed to coincide with the opening of farmers markets for the summer.

Culturally competent health education messages will be developed to reach people with a variety of literacy levels and languages.

Connecting with Their Future Patients

The PURCH students expect that by partnering with community organizations that are engaged in advocacy and development work, they will create lasting connections to the community in which they learn and work.

As future physicians they will be better able to articulate the needs of their patients, and advocate for them to local legislators.

MLK Jr. Semester of Service Award

The MLK Jr. Semester of Service Award supports projects that are driven by students in health profession programs and benefit communities in Baystate Health’s primary catchment areas—Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden Counties. Projects must address one of the following:

  • Priority health need, as identified in Baystate’s Community Health Needs Assessment
  • Social determinant(s) of health, as defined by MA Department of Public Health
  • Health disparity or inequity

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