UMass Memorial Health – Harrington Open Free “Bridge Fridge” Community Closets and Food Pantries
Two locations are just outside the main entrances of the Southbridge & Webster hospitals for easy, discreet access
Southbridge, MA, November 6, 2023 – An idea conceived a year ago to help combat food and clothing insecurities in South Central Massachusetts has come to fruition. UMass Memorial Health – Harrington, has opened two free “Bridge Fridge” Community Closet and Pantry locations on its campuses - one at 100 South Street, Southbridge and another at 340 Thompson Road, Webster.
The Bridge Fridge locations allow those in need to discreetly access non- perishable food, refrigerated and frozen goods, toiletry items, and lightly used or new clothing. Both locations had a soft opening in September, and during the last 8 weeks have already distributed hundreds of clothing and toiletry items as well as many pounds of food to community residents in need.
“The Bridge Fridge project is in response to the feedback from our Community Health Needs Assessment, a 21-question survey about health care priorities based on statewide needs identified by the Attorney General’s Office,” said Ed Moore, President at UMass Memorial Health – Harrington. “We are focused on our work for diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure we, as a community hospital, are meeting the needs of the groups identified in our Health Needs Assessment. Some of the most prominent needs identified in our area include food supply and clothing insecurity. We had been in contact with Carla and Yesenia, the founders of The Bridge Fridge Program, who developed The Bridge Fridge at Renaissance Medical Group, (RMG), and quickly started working towards developing the units at Harrington to meet multiple needs in Southbridge and Webster.”
“From a health equity perspective, we believe that food is medicine and is integral to our overall health and wellbeing,” said Jess Calcidise, Chief Nursing Officer & Chief Operating Officer. “We are very hopeful that it helps meet some of the hunger needs in our area as well as essential clothing and general hygiene items.”
To prepare for the colder months ahead, UMass Memorial Health – Harrington hosted its first public donation drive for the Bridge Fridges last week, which was topped off with a fun, free-to-the-public ‘Trunk or Treat’ event hosted by Harrington Caregivers at the Southbridge Campus.
The two closets, restocked by Harrington staff regularly, are housed just outside the main entrances of the Southbridge & Webster hospitals. They will be open year-round from 6:00 am – 8:00 pm daily for those in need. Harrington will continue to host public donation drives as needed to keep adequate inventory for the closets, but non-perishable food item donations are always welcome and can be donated inside the hospitals' cafeterias.
“We are excited about this groundbreaking partnership with UMass Memorial Health - Harrington,” said Carla Delacruz Davila, Co-Founder / President of WellStorm Inc. “We aim to bridge the gap in accessing healthy food through mutual aid. Community fridges are at the heart of our mutual aid initiative. These fridges represent a sharing mechanism that seeks to reduce food insecurities and build a stronger, more united community. Together through this partnership we strive to create a more inclusive and compassionate community that supports one another in times of need.”
The Bridge Fridge concept is the flagship project of The WellStorm, Inc., a nonprofit organization established to build connections, mutual aid, and support for people experiencing homelessness, mental health struggles and food insecurity. To learn more about WellStorm, Inc. visit www.thewellstorminc.org.
UMass Memorial Health – Harrington provides outstanding health care to patients in more than 25 communities throughout South-Central Massachusetts and North Eastern Connecticut. We are dedicated to our role as the health and wellness partner of the people in our communities and we are relentless in the pursuit of healing. Our comprehensive array of health care services and locations provides our patients with unparalleled access to care. Harrington Hospital in Southbridge provides medical and surgical inpatient care, 24-hour emergency services, inpatient adult psychiatry, an intensive care unit and comprehensive outpatient services. Harrington Hospital at Webster, Harrington at Charlton, Harrington at 169 and Harrington at Sturbridge offer primary care and specialty physicians, diagnostic imaging and more. UMass Memorial Medical Group is our primary care and multi-specialty physician group, UrgentCare Express at Harrington in Oxford and Southbridge serves as a walk-in medical center for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries, and the Cancer Center at Harrington in Southbridge allows patients to receive advanced, local oncology and hematology care.