Food Research & Action Center
American Academy of Pediatrics
WASHINGTON, January 28, 2021 — The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) today released an updated toolkit, Screen & Intervene: A Toolkit for Pediatricians to Address Food Insecurity, designed to help pediatricians identify and address childhood food insecurity.
“Even before COVID-19, millions of children lived in households that struggled to put food on the table, and now the pandemic has only deepened that crisis, especially for Black, Latinx, and Native American families,” said Luis Guardia, president of FRAC. “As frontline health workers, pediatricians play a key role in ensuring children are getting the nutrition they need for their health, learning, and development.”
Research shows that children who live in households that lack access to food are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly, and be hospitalized more frequently. Developmental delays, poor educational outcomes, and mental health disorders are also associated with childhood food insecurity.
It is not always obvious, even to a skilled health care provider, that a patient may be struggling with food insecurity, as the condition often is not visible. That’s why the AAP recommends pediatricians screen their patients using the Hunger Vital Sign™, a simple, two-question tool to better identify children living in households struggling with food insecurity.
The toolkit provides specific information so that pediatricians can:
- screen patients for food insecurity,
- sensitively address the topic,
- connect patients and their families to federal nutrition programs and community resources, and
- advocate for greater food security and improved overall health of children and their families.
“We all want children to grow up healthy and strong. But even before this pandemic, economic problems made it hard for many families to get enough healthy food. Hunger exists in every community,” said Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. “As a pediatrician, I know that children who miss meals are more likely to suffer developmental problems, struggle in school, and have poorer mental health and that this childhood malnutrition can extend into chronic illnesses in adulthood. That’s why it’s important that we ask these questions, so we can help families connect with resources to help their children thrive.”
Pediatricians can support patients struggling with food insecurity by connecting families to resources such as federal nutrition programs. These valuable programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Pandemic EBT (P-EBT); the Child and Adult Care Food Program; school breakfast and lunch; and afterschool and summer meals, reduce food insecurity and improve the health and well-being of among children.
“Federal nutrition programs are proven solutions to alleviating poverty, reducing food insecurity, and improving the health of millions, and we want people to know there are solutions that can help them feed their families,” said Guardia. “These programs are important interventions for patients who screen positive for food insecurity as well as for others in need.”
The toolkit was made possible by support from the Elevance Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Elevance Health Inc.
“Food insecurity results in serious consequences for children’s health and well-being, that’s why we are partnering with FRAC to develop and enhance essential tools to help pediatricians increase sustainable efforts to address food insecurity among their patients and families,” said Razia Hashmi, MD, MPH, Vice President for Commercial Clinical Operations at Elevance Health Inc. “Through education and training, our partnership plays a critical role in advocating for programs and policies that will work to end childhood food insecurity, creating healthier lives for our future generations.”
About the Food Research & Action Center
For 50 years, the Food Research & Action Center has been the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.
About the American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Learn more at AAP.org.
About the Elevance Health Foundation
The Elevance Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Elevance Health Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the organization’s commitment to improving lives and communities. To learn more about the Elevance Health Foundation, visit https://elevancehealth.foundation/.