How many of your patients are hungry right now?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.”
Sadly, for many of our members, this is a daily reality. It is hard to imagine having to make the impossible choice between paying rent or keeping the electric on or buying food for a family.
According to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, hungry people are:
- 30 percent more likely to be hospitalized and require longer inpatient stays.
- Twice as likely to need mental health services.
- At higher risk for obesity, because healthy, fresh foods usually cost more than high-calorie options like chips and soda. Low-income neighborhoods often lack supermarkets, so residents rely on limited grocery selections at local convenience stores or corner stores.
The impact of food insecurity in children affects every aspect of their lives, from their health to their ability to do well in school. In 2015, 18 percent of children under age 18 (more than 13 million) in the United States lived in food-insecure households.
- Hungry children are 60 percent more likely to miss school, and 50 percent are more likely to repeat a grade.
- They are twice as likely to require special education.
What can you do?
We appreciate that you are on the front line of so many health and safety issues, and as such, we would encourage you to follow the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics to ask about food resources and to assess food security.
This is critical:
Never assume a family has adequate food resources.
Screen for food insecurity by adding the following questions to your normal routine safety questions:
Please let me know if either of these statements is true for your family:
Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.
Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just did not last and we did not have money to get more.
Resources for you and your staff to refer members
Your patients can visit the Feeding Pennsylvania website to find information on:
- Food banks in their area.
- Nutrition assistance programs like the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- National school breakfast and lunch programs, and much more.