Fighting Hunger this Summer

One in six children and one in nine adults in Dane County have food insecurity, according to the national hunger-relief organization Feeding America.

The United States Department of Agriculture defines food security as having access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Families may be considered food-insecure if they have anxiety about having enough food in the house, have to buy food of low quality or have to eat less or less often.

Screening for Food Insecurity

On June 13, UW Health will introduce screening for food insecurity for patients of all ages across the health care system. The new effort is part of an initiative of the HungerCare Coalition- a project of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

“Studies have shown that food insecurity is linked to serious health effects across a lifetime. We are glad to start screening and referring patients to resources in the community,” said Robin Lankton, program director of community health improvement at UW Health.  “To be a good health-care organization, we need to identify and act on the social conditions that powerfully affect health.”

Every patient who comes into the emergency department at University Hospital or UW Health at The American Center; adult inpatients; and families at American Family Children’s Hospital will be asked the same two screening questions. If the answer is yes, or true, they will be directed to a social worker and given a list of local food resources, such as United Way’s 2-1-1, to find a nearby food pantry.

The two statements are:

  • Within the past 12 months we worried whether our food would run out before we had money to buy more.
  • Within the past 12 months the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have enough money to get more.

Free Summer Meals for Children

UW Health will also provide free meals to children at the hospital from June 12 through August 25. This program is through the United State Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. The target audience is child outpatients, siblings of inpatients and outpatients at American Family Children’s Hospital, and children of adult patients/patrons at University Hospital. (Inpatient meals are included in the daily room rate so pediatric inpatients are not included in the summer program.)

For the free summer meals for kids, there is no income requirement or registration. The summer meals will be provided Monday-Friday from 11 am to 2 pm at American Family Children’s Hospital. The service will be provided seven days a week at University Hospital from 11 am to 4 pm.

“With summer around the corner, it’s important to think about keeping children healthy over the summer. We are excited to offer fresh, free and well-balanced meals to children and teens in the summer months when school is not in session,” said Cassie Vanderwall, UW Health clinical nutritionist and dietetic internship program manager. “We have the key ingredients to make this program a success- dedication to service, time and expert knowledge in food and nutrition.”

Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture partners with local organizations to provide free meals to children when school is out for the summer. For some children, no school can mean no lunch.

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