Preventive Food Pantry: Food as Medicine in Healthcare Spotlight

by Marissa Sheldon

What they do: The Preventive Food Pantry at Boston Medical Center (BMC) provides free food to patients with special dietary needs who have a “prescription” from their primary care physician. The Pantry is often used by people with chronic conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, as well as pregnant women and malnourished children. Patients may access the pantry once every two weeks, with a maximum of twice a month, and receive up to four days’ worth of food each visit, including meat and fresh produce, for their household. The Pantry also works in conjunction with BMC’s Teaching Kitchen, through which patients and community members can learn how to cook nutritious meals at home.

How they do it: The Pantry Manager, Latchman Hiralall, is a registered Dietetic Technician, who can provide patients with foods appropriate to their specific medical condition. Pantry staff members are fluent in four languages and able to assist BMC’s many refugee and immigrant patients. While food is donated to the Pantry from various sources, including school food drives and religious congregations, the majority of donations (12,000 pounds of food per week) come from the Greater Boston Food Bank. Fresh produce also comes from BMC’s rooftop farm. The Pantry is open year-round, Monday through Friday, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Mission: To address nutrition-related illness and under-nutrition for low-income patients.

Major Funding: Greater Boston Food Bank/Endowments/Grants/Private Donors

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: The Pantry provides more than 50,000 pounds of food per month to 7,000 individuals, 40 percent of whom are children.


Yawkey Ambulatory Care Center at Boston Medical Center
850 Harrison Ave
Boston, MA 02118

Core Program: Food pantry

Number of staff: 4

Number of volunteers: 2 per day

Areas served: Boston and surrounding communities.

Year Started: 2001

Manager: Latchman Hiralall

Contact Information:, 617-414-3834 or 617-414-5263

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