Food insecurity in households with children is a persistent problem in the US. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a decade-long declining trend in household food insecurity in 2020.1 However, food insecurity in households with children declined again in 2021 in the setting of multiple COVID-19 federal nutrition waivers, enabling children and families to access benefits more easily.1,2 For example, a recent report highlighted that there was an overall increase in participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by 1.2%, and in some states, by more than 15%.3
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends screening all families at health supervision visits for food insecurity and connecting them with federal nutrition programs.4 However, little guidance exists for how healthcare systems and providers can partner with these federal nutrition programs. This week in Pediatrics, we are early releasing a Pediatrics Perspectives, “Healthcare as a Partner in Federal Nutrition Programs: Call for Advocacy” (10.1542/peds.2022-057027). Dr. Laura M. Plencner at the University of Missouri Kansas City and her colleagues describe how they successfully operated a Summer Food Service Program at their respective institutions and substantially increased reach during the pandemic due to the waivers.
The authors call for healthcare systems to engage in legislative advocacy around policies enabling these systems to integrate federal nutrition programs and referrals to these programs within clinical settings. In light of the recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health and the upcoming reauthorization of child nutrition programs, children’s hospitals are uniquely situated to advocate for a role in addressing food insecurity through partnering with federal nutrition programs.
- Economic Research Service. (2022, October). Key Statistics & Graphics. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx. Accessed November 7, 2022
- Food and Nutrition Service. (2022, July). Child Nutrition COVID-9 Waivers. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-disaster-assistance/fns-responds-covid-19/child-nutrition-covid-19-waivers. Accessed November 7, 2022
- Jacobs K. (2022, October). WIC During COVID-19: Participation and Benefit Redemption Since the Onset of the Pandemic. Food Research & Action Center. https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/wic-during-covid-19-2022.pdf. Accessed November 7, 2022
- Council on Community Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition. Promoting Food Security for All Children. Pediatrics. 2015;136(5):e1431-e1438