Leaders from the world of healthcare and from food banks around the Southeast recently met at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to share ideas for addressing hunger in the context of healthcare.
Convened by the Safety Net Consortium of Middle Tennessee, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, and Second Harvest, the Health & Hunger Summit began by educating attendees on the need for coordinated community action. Kim Prendergast, Community Health & Nutrition Consultant for Feeding America, was the keynote speaker and shared stories and statistics from the front lines about how food insecurity leads to higher healthcare costs. For example, some renal patients who are deemed “noncompliant” by their healthcare provider are actually just unable to afford the healthy foods they need to manage their disease.
She also explained the way to use the Hunger Vital Sign, two quick questions to screen patients for food insecurity. Click here to download the Hunger Vital Sign as a PDF. And visit FRAC.org to learn more about screening for food insecurity in a medical setting.
Kim Molnar, Chief Operating Officer for Second Harvest, introduced the audience to existing resources available in their communities, many operated by Second Harvest and our 490 Partner Agencies across our 46 county service area.
A panel of practitioners from Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Maury Regional Medical Center, and Saint Thomas Medical Partners in Columbia, TN shared best practices from their own work with patients who experience food insecurity. Panelists spoke about the nitty gritty details of managing a food pantry, like dealing with pests and storage, but they all agreed that saving money on food allows more people to afford their prescriptions, which in turn decreases readmission rates.
The panelists also recommended that health practitioners start small and prepare to build a team of coworkers from several departments to drive adoption of new food programs. One medical provider’s food box program really took off when their transportation team got involved and integrated food distribution into their discharge procedures.
The event concluded with a breakout session so that participants could share what they learned.
In the words of Second Harvest CEO Jaynee Day, “I’m so excited about this conversation. We can do amazing things collectively I truly believe that, but it will take each and every one of us to commit to this journey to make our community food secure.”