Food insecurity is a serious health problem for people and communities nationwide, with profound clinical consequences and a deep connection to sociodemographic factors that affect health.
Members of America’s Essential Hospitals care for the nation’s most vulnerable, including racial and ethnic minorities, complex patients, and low-income populations. The established incidence of food insecurity within these groups clearly demonstrates the clinical and financial burden essential hospitals experience as a result of treating such populations.
But those challenges create unique opportunities and responsibilities for essential hospitals, which are ideally positioned to help reduce food insecurity and improve patient and population health.
This brief summarizes the challenges that food-insecure patients face and measures hospitals can take at the patient, system, and community levels to help create food security.
- Food insecurity is significantly associated with a number of physical and behavioral health outcomes.
- Poor health and food insecurity often exacerbate each other, perpetuating a cycle of chronic illness that contributes to high health care costs and utilization.
- Food insecurity disproportionately affects vulnerable populations and is driven by social, economic, and environmental factors.
- Essential hospitals have a unique opportunity and responsibility to address food insecurity to improve patient and population health.
- Hospitals can address food insecurity through screening, on-campus resources, community partnerships and engagement, and referral to nutrition assistance programs.