As it continues to dish out food, a local non-profit has received funding to assist older generations fight hunger. 

The Open Door has received an $85,000 grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation to support the rollout of its Medically Tailored Groceries program that will assist low-income older adult clients with chronic health conditions. 

"Fully recognizing that we had our hands full with the pandemic response, Tufts recognized the planning work that we had done and gave us an additional $85,000 to take the plan and implement it and run the pilot program in this fiscal year," said Julie LaFontaine, executive director of The Open Door. 

The initial launch of The Open Door's Medically Tailored Grocery (MTG) program had been planned for January. It added a registered dietitian to The Open Door's staff, to provide added insight into the care of the organization's clients ages 55 and older. 

After clients meet and speak with the dietitian, the program splits them into one of two tracks. 

The first track will have clients meeting weekly with the organization's dietitian and receiving boxes of food that are specific to each client's needs. 

The second track will have clients shop The Open Door's pantries in Gloucester and Ipswich where they can choose from an assortment of produce and proteins. 

The start of the program, however, had to be pushed back due to a small "hiccup" as LaFontaine put it, which was followed by the novel coronavirus pandemic that put operations of the pilot on pause. 

As it reopens other functions of its facilities this summer in line with Gov. Charlie Baker's state reopening plan, The Open Door will use the grant money from Tufts in the first quarter of the fiscal year to figure "out the solutions for tele-health for nutrition counseling in a HIPAA safe environment but remotely," LaFontaine explained. 

She added that this time will also be spent figuring out how to get the boxes of food prepared and distributed, whether it is through a delivery system or scheduled pickup times. 

"We are going to take this time to figure it out," she said, explaining that The Open Door will be booking clients for a fall start date with the modifications necessary during the COVID crisis. 

The local non-profit was one of 13 organizations to receive a portion of $1.7 million in grant money from Tufts Health Plan Foundation. 


Grants were gifted to support collaborative community efforts and systems change to advance healthy aging, the foundation said. 


"We need to learn from this experience," said Nora Morena Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. "We have an opportunity to think differently about how our systems are addressing community needs and how we can change the conditions that hold problems in place."


Other grant recipients were community efforts in Boston, Jamaica Plain, Cambridge, Waltham, Springfield and Lowell; in Keene, Somersworth and Manchester, New Hampshire; and in Bristol, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or


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