Boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as care kits with masks are being handed out at a walk-in coronavirus testing site in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood this week.
The site, operated by Brigham Health, is located at the Sportsmen's Tennis and Enrichment Center at 950 Blue Hill Ave. It opened Monday and will test anyone with coronavirus symptoms through Friday.
The walk-in site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Fresh food and kits with masks, educational resources and other items will be given out to anyone in need from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day this week through Saturday, May 16. People who qualify can also receive eight free weeks of food delivery.
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, shortness of breath and loss of sense of smell. People do not need to be a Brigham patient to be screened. Patients will not be asked about your immigration status and do not have to have health insurance, organizers say.
The organization noted that food insecurity has "substantial negative effects" on health because people must often choose food over engaging in health care or paying for medications. This results in lower nutritional intakes, increased rates of mental health problems and depression, and higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Since the onset of COVID-19, food insecurity has increased in the U.S., according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.
Screening for food insecurity at Brigham Health’s testing sites in Hyde Park, Mission Hill and Roxbury has revealed that economic struggles caused by the pandemic have exacerbated the problem in neighboring communities.
The percentage of residents identified as food insecure rose from 19 percent before the pandemic, to 29 percent, according to Brigham Health. At the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury, 50 percent of residents who visited the site between May 4 and 9 were identified as food insecure.