South

Brockton welcomes partnership between health center and grocery store

Taking a look around Vicente’s Tropical Grocery in Brockton on Sept. 3 were (from left to right) store director Brian Vicente, Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, store owner Jason Barbosa, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center chief executive officer Sue Joss, and state Representative Michael Brady of Brockton. (Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation photo)

Taking a look around Vicente’s Tropical Grocery in Brockton on Sept. 3 were (from left to right) store director Brian Vicente, Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, store owner Jason Barbosa, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center chief executive officer Sue Joss, and state Representative Michael Brady of Brockton. (Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation photo)

In an area that was once littered with liquor bottles and often labeled a food desert, now sits the new Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.

The $22 million development, which includes a collaboration with the neighboring Vicente’s Tropical Grocery, held its ribbon-cutting Sept. 3 with plans to officially open on Sept. 21. In attendance were, among other dignitaries, US Senator Elizabeth Warren and Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter. The new health center at 160 Pleasant St. is Brockton’s second; the main health facility is just a few blocks away, at 63 Main St.

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The new center and grocery store are working together “to make a difference in our zip code and create an environment where people have a chance to be healthy,” said Sue Joss, the health center’s chief executive officer.

The approximately 13,600-square-foot facility will hold 27 examining rooms and is expected to see nearly 6,700 patients a year. Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a group working to revitalize neighborhoods, invested $8 million in the health center and $3.6 million in the market.

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In addition to primary care and social services, community members can get hands-on experience with healthy eating habits through demonstrative cooking classes and tips on how to avoid the salt and go for the greens.

“Healthy food is now in a nutritional food desert,” said Robert Jenkins, executive director of the Brockton Redevelopment Authority. “It’s very tough for people to get access to fresh food” in that neighborhood.

Joss said a healthy lifestyle comes from a cluster of decisions. “Health and medical care that we provide to patients really only accounts for 20 percent of whether they’re healthy or not. ... The next 20 percent is medication,” she said. “The remaining 60 is nutrition.”

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“This partnership with Vicente’s is really important to the community health center. We want to impact more than just the 20 percent,” she said. “We want to get to causes of why people are healthy or not.”

For Vicente’s, the new partnership also goes beyond sharing a wall.

“We’re neighbors, but it goes further than that,” said Brian Vicente, the store’s director. “We both share the same mission ... to help everyone out with nutrition and education.”

And as the neighborhood changes, so may its reputation.

“The greatest thing is the fact that they took two entities and brought themselves together to form a great partnership,” said Michael Gallerani, executive director of Brockton’s 21st Century Corporation, the private nonprofit looking to develop the area.

“It’s a food heaven,” he said.

Ella Torres can be reached at sara.torres@globe.com.
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