Home » News » Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department Partner on Two Programs that Fight Food Insecurity and Support Healthier Living
Published: 07/26/2023

Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department Partner on Two Programs that Fight Food Insecurity and Support Healthier Living

Food insecurity is a significant issue affecting many in the Berkshire community, and Berkshire Health Systems and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department have teamed up with local organizations to develop and implement solutions to help address this critical health issue. The Flexible Services initiative, created by BHS, the Sheriff’s Office, Community Health Programs, Fallon Health and the Partnership for Health in the Berkshires, provides interactive nutritional services to people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, and/or experiencing food insecurity.

The initiative, which has been in operation for a year, offers a 10-week delivery program of medically tailored meals and/or groceries to members of the Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative, which is a MassHealth Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Partnership Plan. Members must meet health-based needs criteria and be at risk of a nutritional deficiency. During the course of each program, participants from dozens of communities throughout the Berkshires not only receive free access to healthy food, but also engage with community health workers and a registered dietitian to learn about how to manage their health conditions, how to identify and cook with nutritious food items, and how to connect with other community resources and healthcare programs that can support the varying needs of each participant.

“This special initiative is a natural extension of our BHS mission to advance health and wellness for everyone,” said Darlene Rodowicz, President and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems.  “By delivering thousands of nutritious meals and giving individuals the tools they need to make good health decisions, our teams can help to promote healthier lifestyles and enhance overall well-being across our community, one relationship at a time.”

As part of this unique partnership, Berkshire County House of Correction inmates prepare the meals at the Berkshire County House of Correction on Cheshire Road under the supervision and guidance of kitchen corrections officers who are Servsafe certified. Berkshire Fallon staff, operating out of the former House of Correction on Second Street, package the groceries and prepare the meals for at-home delivery across the county.

The medically tailored meal program gives participants 10 meals per week (five lunches and five dinners) for a 10-week period. The grocery delivery program also runs for 10 weeks and offers participants a supply of fresh produce and nonperishable goods worth about $45 per week. A registered dietitian provides 1-on-1 nutrition education to those receiving medically tailored meals and provides recipes and general nutrition education to those on the grocery delivery program. Both programs work with the local vendors Big Y Supermarkets and Marty’s Local Produce to source meal ingredients and groceries. 

In all, since the programs began in July of 2021, the team has delivered 1,250 grocery totes and prepared and delivered 2,500 medically tailored meals. The response among participants for 2021 has shown that the programs are succeeding, with over 90% of participants rating the programs as excellent. BHS estimates that the grocery delivery program has helped participants to reduce food insecurity by 53%, and the medically tailored meals program by 48%, based on survey data gathered from participants.

“These meal programs allow individuals with chronic medical conditions to eat a balanced sustainable diet to help manage their illnesses,” said Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler. “We’re proud to be working with our community partners and our Sheriff’s Department employees on an effort that is having such a dramatic impact on the lives of Berkshire residents.”

To learn more about these programs and view a behind-the-scenes video, click here.

To enroll in the programs, existing Berkshire Fallon Health members can call Berkshire Fallon at 413-553-9090.  For more about the Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative, including how to become a member, please visit www.fallon.org/berkshire.