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Max Baker Resource Center for students facing food insecurity dedicated at UMass Chan

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

November 29, 2018
  Celebrating the dedication of the Max Baker Resource Center are (from left) James Baker, MD, MPH; Ryan Barrette, SOM ’21; Katherine Sadaniantz, SOM ’21; and Terence Flotte, MD.
  Celebrating the dedication of the Max Baker Resource Center are (from left) James Baker, MD, MPH; Ryan Barrette, SOM ’21; Katherine Sadaniantz, SOM ’21; and Terence Flotte, MD.

A new food pantry and resource center for UMass Medical School students was dedicated at a ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 27, recognizing the contributions of those who made it possible. The Max Baker Resource Center was launched by members of the UMMS Student Body Committee with significant support from James Baker, MD, MPH.

SBC co-president Ryan Barrette, SOM ’21, said it is well documented that food insecurity—defined as a lack of consistent access to affordable and nutritious food—is not uncommon in higher education. A number of UMMS students who responded to a nutritional needs survey conducted in 2015 reported financial stress and food insecurity.

“Part of our mission is to start the conversation about the problem, as well as provide resources for these students. There’s a really strong community here, and when your classmates and friends are dealing with a challenge, we talk about those things and we do what we can to help,” Barrette said. “We envisioned a take-what-you-need food pantry. We have now evolved to having toiletries, baby supplies and school supplies and will keep adapting to provide for the needs of students as we become aware of them.”

Dr. Baker, instructor in family medicine & community health, lost his 23-year-old son Max in 2016 to a drug overdose. The young man had aspired to apply to medical school after completing premedical studies.

Baker said he appreciates that all UMMS medical and advanced practice nursing students receive training in addiction evaluation and management to qualify them for safe prescriber certification when they graduate.

“My son can’t be here himself, learning what students here are learning, but he can be here in spirit and the resource center named in his memory can help them learn,” Baker said in remarks at the dedication. Hear more from him in the WBZ-TV4 News coverage of the dedication.

The resource center is accessible via ID badge to all students from the School of Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Graduate School of Nursing, as well as residents in the GME program. Fundraising efforts by students and academic departments are ongoing to keep the facility well stocked. Donations of nonperishable foods; frozen or refrigerated foods; personal hygiene products; household paper supplies; and school supplies are requested. Microwavable foods are in especially high demand.

Students can leave donations within the center at any time; faculty and staff are asked to contact to coordinate their donations. Convenient drop-off sites will be announced soon.

Learn more about the Max Baker Resource Center here and email questions to the Student Body Committee, which invites interested students to get involved with this project and other initiatives related to food insecurity.