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Supporting Food Insecurity with Emergency Food Kits

According to the USDA, from 2018 to the 2019, food insecurity rates in the United States decreased from 11.1% to 10.5%. This represents the eighth year of decline since the staggering rate of 14.9% in 2011. In 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic having affected millions across the U.S., experts are anticipating the first increase in national food insecurity rates since 2011.

Anticipating food insecurity needs in patient populations is a key role for clinical dietitians in the health system to support the fight to end hunger. Food insecurity consistently leads to increased susceptibility to develop chronic conditions, impaired outcomes, and worsening overall health. 

Patient nutrition is integral to a patient’s care plan – both during and after a hospital stay. But when patients are challenged with access to nutritious food, how can care providers help? 

At Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), care teams are implementing nutritious food bags to provide to patients when they leave the hospital. Now hospitals can leverage the Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare team’s experience in implementing their own discharge meal kit program. 

 

How It Works 

Identifying patients who may be challenged with food insecurity is the first step. Patients are screened for food insecurity upon admission. Care teams including registered dietitians or nurses utilize the Hunger Vital Signs™ two-question screening tool.

With the supervision of the Clinical Nutrition Team at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, once a patient is identified as food insecure, a trigger is sent to the registered dietitians or nurses (depending on where the program is operating). The patient is then offered an Emergency Food Kit, including local and federal food assistance resources and a recipe book to help patients use the food provided as part of a well-balanced diet.

Food selection is based on the patient’s living situation and access to a kitchen. The team determines how the food will be sourced, and how much food to include. They also developed an inventory system to manage the kits. When appropriate, a non-food-related resources guide is also provided to uninsured and underinsured patients. 

Other supporting programs at TMH, managed in partnership with Sodexo and the TMH Foundation, support healthcare staff. The programs source from local farmers or other community-supported programs to provide colleagues during the pandemic with a fresh bag of produce, non-perishable foods, and a recipe card. 

 

Resources

The Sodexo team at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare rely on and provide these resources to patients facing food insecurity:

Other resources include: 

 

Sources: 

 

March 01, 2021

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