Health Imperatives granted $374,000 for new program

Health Imperatives is partnering with Island Grown Initiative to provide nutritious food to the Islands' underserved community members. — Abigail Rosen

Health Imperatives Martha’s Vineyard has been awarded $374,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the implementation of a new program aimed at helping reduce hunger and improve nutrition on the Island. 

With the new funding, Health Imperatives plans on expanding access to underserved community members by offering a broader range of services and increasing program enrollment, a press release issued this week states.

Dedicated to the improvement of the health and well-being of low-income and vulnerable families and individuals, Health Imperatives Martha’s Vineyard is one of a handful of the organization’s locations throughout the commonwealth. 

The $374,000 grant is aimed at addressing hunger and health disparities on the Vineyard, particularly that of families eligible for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) through various types of community outreach programs. 

WIC is a federal program that provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and healthcare referrals to nutritionally at-risk infants, children up to 5 years old, and pregnant and postpartum individuals from low-income households.

A similar program has already been implemented on Nantucket; that program has proved successful, as its WIC enrollment increased by 50 percent. 

“Martha’s Vineyard’s extreme wealth gap and growing diversity make it incredibly difficult for hard-working people to meet their basic needs,” Health Imperatives CEO Julia Kehoe said in the release. “We are grateful for the opportunity to expand and strengthen WIC across the Island, reducing obstacles to access, and ultimately reducing health disparities for all.”

“On Martha’s Vineyard, factors such as a significant wealth gap, geographic isolation, and residents’ immigration status mean only 43 percent of the WIC-eligible population is utilizing the program,” the organization’s release says. “By expanding access to WIC, Health Imperatives will reduce disparities in health and nutrition on the Vineyard. Further, by embedding WIC services into community locations around the Island and hiring multilingual providers, disparities in transportation and language will also be lessened.”

Health Imperatives plans on implementing a number of measures, including improving service delivery by hiring two WIC staff who will live on-Island, increasing partnerships with local healthcare and community partners, and supporting local WIC clients to serve as program ambassadors.

Per the statement, the organization will be partnering with Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to increase local food production, reduce food waste, promote climate-friendly farming techniques, and expand access to healthy, affordable food. 

“Island Grown Initiative is delighted to partner with Health Imperatives to increase WIC access,” IGI Executive Director Rebecca Haag said in the release. “Together, through community outreach, nutrition education, and streamlined access to WIC services, we will work to ensure that no family on the Island lacks access to healthy, nutritious meals.”