Local children learn to prepare healthy meals at All Dorchester Sports League, one of 14 organizations awarded Health Equity Grants from BWH.

Local children learn to prepare healthy meals during a Fit Kitchen class at All Dorchester Sports League, one of 14 community organizations awarded a Health Equity grant from BWH.

Poverty, past experience with trauma and even proximity to a supermarket can all impede a person’s health. To help our local community overcome these obstacles, BWH’s Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE) recently awarded grants to 14 nonprofits working to improve the health and wellness of children, adults and seniors in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill and Roxbury.

The center will distribute $640,000 annually to grant recipients for the next three years – totaling more than $1.9 million in funding – with individual organizations receiving grants ranging from $20,000 to $100,000. A second round of grant recipients will be selected in 2019.

Although the CCHHE has supported community organizations over the years, this marks the first time it has opened up funding opportunities more broadly through a competitive grant process. A committee selected 14 winners from a pool of 86 applicants.

The 14 organizations cover a wide range of services. They include Mothers for Justice and Equality, located in Roxbury, which helps mothers and young people affected by violence. The Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition works to make healthy food and fitness opportunities accessible and affordable. Sociedad Latina supports Latino youth from Mission Hill and Roxbury by providing education and workforce development programs.

Despite differing missions, the organizations share a common trait. They all take a holistic approach to health equity, said Wanda McClain, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity at BWH.

“Eighty percent of what makes us healthy can be attributed to factors outside of the health care system, such as whether we live in a safe neighborhood, have access to high-quality education or have access to healthy, affordable foods,” McClain said. “These 14 organizations are working closely with their communities to address the social factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. We see these funds as an opportunity to expand what is often thought as the traditional scope of health care to promote prevention and wellness at the community level.”

One of the organizations, All Dorchester Sports League – which offers youth sports, tutoring and fitness classes – will use the BWH grant to expand its Fit Kitchen program, a weekly free cooking class for children and families. It plans to provide stipends for instructors, including multilingual nutrition experts to support Dorchester’s growing Latino and Vietnamese populations.

Started in the 1990s as nutrition lectures for teenagers, the program has since evolved into interactive cooking demos for families, with a focus on easy, healthy and affordable meals. Now, classes are packed each week and serve as community-building events.

“By the end of the two hours, everyone is hugging, laughing and exchanging phone numbers,” said Candice Gartley, executive director of All Dorchester Sports League. “In addition to learning how to cook healthy foods, they get to know their neighbors. That’s our mission – to bring people together.”

Over the next three years, the CCHHE will also collaborate with the UMass Donahue Institute, which will measure the outcomes of projects that received funding and track how the grant money is being used.

“We have the opportunity to really make an impact in our community and in a very broad way,” McClain said.

BWH’s 2016 Health Equity Grants Recipients

  • All Dorchester Sports League
  • Alternatives for Community and Environment
  • Baraka Community Wellness
  • College Bound Dorchester
  • Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition
  • MissionSAFE
  • Mothers for Justice and Equality
  • Sociedad Latina
  • Span, Incorporated
  • St. Stephen’s Youth Programs
  • The HEART Consortium
  • Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry
  • United South End Settlements
  • Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts

Click here to learn more about the 14 projects being funded.