February 14, 2024

Food Security icon Food Security

It has been a challenging few years, learning to connect with patients while hiding my smile behind a facemask, in an environment where trust in the medical establishment has decreased and social media memes have become absolute truth. But screening for food insecurity has become a secret weapon for building rapport with my patients and fulfilling my calling as a pediatrician at a federally qualified health center serving an underserved community. When I walk into an exam room with a guide to healthy food resources in my hand, knowing that the family in front of me has limited access to food, I immediately connect with them on a personal level. We may not agree that today is the right day for their child to be vaccinated or that their child may benefit from weight loss, but we can unite on the fact that $7 for a dozen eggs is too expensive and $5 for a gallon of gas causes us to modify our spending habits. Our therapeutic alliance rests on the reality that so many people in our country are facing food insecurity, that our health center has recognized this and provided opportunities for me, their pediatrician, to address it.

Food insecurity is common. Nationally, 12.8% of families are food insecure. (1) Food insecurity may result in changes in eating habits, like consuming more calorie-dense and low nutritional value foods that tend to be more affordable and accessible. (2)(3) These habits can increase the likelihood of children developing chronic diseases like obesity. (4) Children also experience toxic stress associated with intense short-term and long-term food insecurity, even when their parents attempt to shield them from experiencing hunger. (4) This stress contributes to an increased risk...

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