The Health and Hunger Project is a partnership between UniCare and Think Kids to build better bridges between healthcare and access to healthy food.
In West Virginia, 1 in 5 kids struggle with hunger (Feeding America, 2018). The physical and psychological impact of hunger on growing bodies is linked to a host of downstream physical, emotional and social consequences. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity. They also recommend that pediatricians keep on hand a list of community resources, such as food banks and pantries.
But do doctors have the time to ask about such problems as hunger and can they help fix them? What happens when communities have no supermarkets? Or access to nutritious food?
Think Kids and Unicare are working to answer these questions with the Kids’ Health and Hunger Project. This grant project plans to assemble health care providers from across the state for their input to identify challenges and ideas to address them. The project will also learn how providers are accessing and using community resources and will map and share access paths to better centralize this information.
Health care providers, here’s a 3-minute survey with a few simple questions about connections in your community.
The project will culminate in a statewide Kids’ Health and Hunger Summit in September, where providers and community stakeholders can plan next steps to overcoming barriers and identify potential policy solutions to ensuring all kids have an opportunity for a healthy, hunger-free childhood.
Health, Hunger and the Pandemic
Like many of you, due to the spread of COVID-19 and precautionary measures our state has undertaken, our Summit has been delayed until September. However we know that now, more than ever, the connection between health care and access to food is imperative. Without access to the primary care setting, and little access to food pantries, individuals and families are struggling. Until there is a vaccine, we anticipate that these periods of isolation will continue. How can we ensure that those accessing health care are connected to food access? That is a critical issue to address at our upcoming event.
The Summit scheduled for September 22, will be free of charge, and we encourage all health care providers and community stakeholders to attend! You can register here.
From Think Kids’ Executive Director, Kelli Caseman: “We know that hunger and health are directly related, but when addressing them systemically, they’re often worlds apart. We know our kids lack access to healthy food. How can providers help? What stands in their way to addressing hunger? It could be a few things, or many. We haven’t asked. And so, we’re going to allow their input to lead us in a meaningful direction. Hunger is a public health issue, and providers play a specific role in a bigger context. This project will look at their specific role and ways to make it more efficient. If policy change is necessary, that’s our next step.”