Health care ‘screens and intervenes’ to tackle hunger

Rutgers Nursing_health screening
Health screening at Lincoln Park Music Festival (Rutgers Nursing/Flickr)

“One in six children suffers from food insecurity and hunger. If children are poor, then almost one in two is food insecure. Unless you ask, you won’t be able to tell which child is going to bed hungry, and you won’t be able to connect their families to resources, like SNAP, WIC, or food pantries, that will help them get food.”

Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, American Academy of Pediatrics, president

According to Feeding America, 6.3 percent or 63,800 people in Montgomery County, Maryland are estimated to be food insecure in 2016. A coalition of community members, more than 40 food assistance organizations, and representatives from hospitals and health clinics are partnering on a “screen and intervene” initiative connecting patients experiencing food insecurity with healthy, local food.

Health care providers are a critical component of this initiative. Members of the Montgomery Food Council and food assistance organizations consulted with representatives from Adventist Healthcare, MedStar Montgomery, Suburban Hospital, Holy Cross Health, and the Primary Care Coalition in order to create an efficient screening, referral, and case management system.

This working group conducted an environmental scan of the county to understand which screening and intervention procedures are currently occurring and what new processes were possible given Electronic Medical Record, staffing and, other capacity-related constraints. The results were positive. While most providers did not have established screening and intervention procedures, some ad-hoc screenings of patients who were struggling with basic needs were occurring, with referrals to food assistance providers and other resources. All of those providers interviewed were extremely interested in learning more about the “screen and intervene” options that they could use at their institutions.

Montgomery County Food Policy CouncilA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) training conducted by a
working group of the Montgomery Food Policy Council.

A series of training presentations will be presented to health care providers in the spring of 2019. These presentations will underscore the connection between food security and health, share national models where “screen and intervene” initiatives have reduced readmission rates and suggest ways the Hunger Vital SignTM food security screening tool and subsequent referrals could be carried out at each institution.

The Montgomery County Food Council is an independent nonprofit formed and led by individual community members, and its mission is to bring together food system stakeholders to improve the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of Montgomery County, Maryland through the creation of a robust, local, sustainable food system.

To schedule a training at your organization, please contact Amanda Nesher, Montgomery County Food Council food security programs manager.

Learn more about food insecurity screening and read success stories