Healthy Days and Food Insecurity

by Sari Vatske Vice President of Community Relations, Feeding South Florida

The Feeding America network of food banks and Feeding South Florida are filled with visionary leaders who work hard to make our community better. In late 2015, Humana Inc. launched their Bold Goal of making Broward County 20 percent healthier by 2020. Among their initiatives is addressing the impact of food insecurity on overall community health.

Together, with Feeding America, Feeding South Florida was honored to help pilot an innovative program with Humana and Continucare Medical Centers. During a four-week period in 2016, patients at Continucare centers in Broward County were screened for food insecurity, responding to survey questions about whether food was difficult to access or afford. Of the 530 patients screened, 46% screened positive for food insecurity. Patients who screened positive were offered a consultation with a Feeding South Florida representative, an emergency food box, as well as information on federal, state and local programs to assist with food insecurity.

This pilot project with Humana offers insight into the quality of life and health status of food insecure patients that we are not able to determine on our own. Analysis of the data shows that patients who screened positive for food insecurity had nearly twice as many unhealthy days as patients who were food secure. Healthy Days is a health-related quality of life tool established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that quantifies how individuals perceive their physical and mental health. Healthy Days is the metric Humana uses to measure progress towards its Bold Goal.

Feeding South Florida is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with Feeding America and Humana on such an innovative, forward-thinking project that really highlights the correlation between health and food security. We believe that the work we do is not just about feeding people, it is also about providing the proper nutrition necessary to thrive.

This study further supports the idea that food insecurity is not just a socio-economic issue, it is also a matter of health. By preventing food insecurity and ensuring our families have nutritious food on their tables, we think we can improve health, reduce healthcare costs, reduce the number of missed days from work and school, and improve the overall wellness of our community.

As Feeding South Florida enters Phase II of this innovative pilot study, we look forward to gathering more in-depth analysis of the link between unhealthy days and food insecurity, while simultaneously providing additional interventions and understanding how food banks can best work with health care partners to support families throughout South Florida.

Sari Vatske is the Vice President of Community Relations with Feeding South Florida, where she has been for six years. In her role, she is responsible for all external relations including communications, fundraising, grants, and volunteers but also agency relations, distribution, and programs/services.