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Massachusetts’ Flexible Services Program: Improving Food and Nutrition Security Improves Health

Posted by Jane Francis, USDA, FNS and written by Hannah Benson, Project Bread Program Manager in Food and Nutrition
Mar 08, 2023
Project Bread’s Flexible Services Program Office Team stands near statement on the wall that reads, “We envision a Massachusetts where huger is permanently solved.”

Several studies consistently link poor access to food to poor health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Project Bread, a Massachusetts’ nonprofit focused on permanently solving food insecurity, teamed up with MassHealth to pilot the Flexible Services Program, or FSP, to bolster food security and meet nutritional needs from birth throughout childhood and beyond, improving health outcomes at every stage of life. Since April 2020, over 7,000 MassHealth members (ranging in age from 0 months to 64 years) with complex health issues were given an array of food resources, including gift cards for groceries, cooking supplies, refrigerators, cooking classes, transportation assistance, and nutrition education.

A recent evaluation of 491 clients, who engaged in the program between November 2020 – October 2021, significantly improved their diet and health as follows:

  • 25% became food secure
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption increased by 3.5 servings per week
  • SNAP enrollment increased by 12.4%
  • 99% reported that participation in FSP improved their health

Project Bread employs 11 nutrition services coordinators to serve MassHealth clients across several languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, Arabic, and Vietnamese. These coordinators help address racial inequity in underserved communities, as these communities are disproportionately affected by social and economic barriers to good health.

The program has made life-changing improvements for many participants. When John A. in Gardner, MA lost his job as a cook at age 52, his diet and his health deteriorated, impacting his ability to regain employment. FSP resources gave John the opportunity to take back his diet and his future.

“Not only has this program helped me financially in terms of paying for groceries, but the cooking shows [hosted by Project Bread chefs and nutritionists] have reignited my passion for cooking. Now, food is medicine to me,” said participant John A.

To learn more, access Project Bread’s Food Security is Health Care Impact Report.

Project Bread staff assists clients on the telephone
Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition