August 13, 2020, PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute at Brown University announced on Friday the recipients of this year’s Child Health Innovation Awards. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank and the City of Providence’s Healthy Communities Office (HCO) will each receive $10,000 to support programs that will improve the health of children in Rhode Island. In addition to funding, the recipients will receive technical assistance from the Hassenfeld Institute’s expert faculty.
“The Hassenfeld Institute’s mission is to make Rhode Island among the world’s healthiest places for kids. The Innovation Awards support this goal by funding novel programs that improve the health of children in the community. We are thrilled to partner with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and the HCO, whose programs exemplify the transformative work that is crucial to improving child health,” said Dr. Patrick Vivier, director and executive committee member of the Hassenfeld Institute.
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank will use the award to distribute 1,000 emergency food boxes to food-insecure families with young children. The Food Bank’s Meals4Kids box provides one week’s worth of non-perishable food for school-aged children. The boxes will also contain information about where to find local food pantries and activities for staying healthy. The Food Bank developed the Meals4Kids box after being approached by community health centers that wanted to provide immediate help to local families with children in need of food.
“Community health centers across the state, and nationally, are screening families for food insecurity and helping them get the food they need. We understand the box just provides a few meals for a child, but it can also connect the family to other critical food resources. If we can show it’s an effective approach, we can roll it out to all the health centers in Rhode Island,” said Andrew Schiff, Ph.D., the Food Bank’s CEO.
The Hassenfeld Institute’s team of data analysts will collaborate with the Food Bank to evaluate the efficacy of the program, including whether the Meals4Kids boxes are helping the targeted age group and whether they are assisting food-insecure families in finding local food pantries and additional resources.
This is the Hassenfeld Institute’s second collaboration with the RI Community Food Bank. In 2019, the Hassenfeld Institute supported the Food Bank’s hunger survey, which provides the Food Bank with data it uses to better serve the community.
“We had such a good experience working with the Hassenfeld team, so it’s very exciting to be collaborating with them again,” Schiff said.
Like the Food Bank, the Providence Healthy Communities Office will focus on helping children in need through its Eat, Play, Learn PVD initiative. Since 2016, the initiative has provided Providence youth with access to healthy food, outdoor play, enrichment programs, and jobs all summer long. The initiative seeks to prevent accelerated summer weight gain, , which disproportionately affects youth of color. The HCO will use the $10,000 award to expand the initiative through a combination of in-person and remote programming, not just during the summer, but also during the current COVID-19 crisis. The Hassenfeld Institute will also assist the HCO with program evaluation and impact assessment.
“Our goal is to keep kids active and engaged, on their own time, and in their own space. We want to keep kids moving, keep them emotionally connected and give them something fun to look forward to,” said Healthy Communities Office Director Ellen Cynar, MS, MPH. “There’s an opportunity to explore whether these programs can work not just during the summer, but also year-round.”
Both the food bank and the HCO will work with the Hassenfeld Institute’s Healthy Weight, Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, which aims to prevent the onset of obesity and excess weight gain in high-risk populations and develop interventions for children already struggling with obesity. The Healthy Weight Initiative is one of three key initiatives of the Hassenfeld Institute, along with asthma and autism.
The Child Health Innovation Awards are made possible through the generous support of Alan Hassenfeld and his family, who endowed the Hassenfeld Institute in 2016. A partnership between the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Brown’s School of Public Health, the Hassenfeld Institute is transforming child health in Rhode Island through novel research, targeted treatments and collaborations with state and local government and community groups.