Hunger as a Health Issue

Food insecurity is on the rise in the United States. Patients of CMHC are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, given their challenging economic and social circumstances. Mounting evidence demonstrates that hunger should be approached as a health issue: for example, researchers have documented the increase in trade offs between purchases of food versus medication (“treat or eat”) and significant increases in hospital admissions for hypoglycemia among low income individuals with diabetes at the end of the month when food budgets are exhausted.

To address the public health dimension of this problem, a "collective impact approach" uniting hospitals, health care providers, community health organizations, universities, state and local government and hunger relief organizations is needed. A key tool supporting a cross-sector approach is the mandatory "Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)" process that is a part of the “community benefit” requirements applicable to non-profit hospitals of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Section 9007).

On June 4, 2014, CMHC hosted guest speakers from THE FOOD TRUST in Philadelphia and C.A.R.E. at Yale University who described how "community food needs assessment" can be conducted and incorporated into an overall CHNA. From such an analysis, effective investments to address hunger can be made by the hospital-sector, in collaboration with other partners.