Feeding America is Nourishing Communities to Make Meaningful Progress Toward Ending Hunger

by Traci Simmons, MPH Community Health and Nutrition Coordinator, Feeding America

By 2025, Feeding America, in collaboration with our network and our partners, is working to ensure access to enough nutritious food for people struggling with hunger, and make meaningful progress toward ending hunger. Recognizing the intersections between diet quality, health, and food and financial security, Feeding America’s community health and nutrition team has embarked on a transformational journey with health care partners and the national network of food banks to improve the diet quality of individuals experiencing food insecurity.

The Challenge

Over the past 35 years, Feeding America has grown to be the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization – currently serving more than 41 million people who are food insecure through a network of 200 food banks. Distributing food to children, seniors and families in need is our first priority, but we also recognize more must be done to fully address and bring an end to the systemic, complex issue of food insecurity.

The challenges to achieving and maintaining food security span beyond, but are still inclusive of, food access. We also know that food insecurity is linked to poor nutrition and chronic disease, and as illustrated in the below cycle, without effective, cross-sector interventions, individuals are progressively challenged with adverse coping strategies, poor disease management, increased health care expenditures, lowered employability, increased spending tradeoffs and decreased household income. In the midst of this, toxic stress takes its toll one one’s overall capacity to thrive.

The Opportunity

With Feeding America’s reach, expertise and partnerships, we are positioned to influence systems and structures to increase healthy food choices and address barriers leading to this cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease. The community health and nutrition team is specifically focused on the two areas below and looks forward to working with partners across sectors, such as you, to make measurable change.

Support the Feeding America network to make the healthy choice the easy choice

Between July 2018 and June 2019, Feeding America will continue to leverage research and provide turnkey tools to implement, scale and evaluate nutrition nudge interventions, nutrition policies and local health-centered initiatives in collaboration with the nationwide network of food banks. Additionally, Feeding America is actively constructing improvements to the Foods to Encourage (F2E) framework, leveraging data and technology to improve measurement and access to nutritious foods. Collectively, these efforts aim to help make the healthy choice the easy choice across multiple audiences.

Influence health systems to address food insecurity and reinforce better nutrition

Health care systems (i.e., providers, payers, insurers, etc.) are necessary to improving the diet quality of individuals served, and they are also increasingly focused on addressing the social determinants of health. With Feeding America’s expertise and national and local reach, we are building national, strategic partnerships to engage the evolving health care system and more fully support the needs of patients – many of whom are experiencing food insecurity. Already, food bank-health care partnerships are engaged in screening for food insecurity and providing interventions for care, including healthy food distributions in health care settings, healthy food delivery programs, referrals to food banks and pantries, and SNAP (formerly food stamps) application assistance.

With the people we serve at the center of this work and collaboration across sectors, we are hopeful to meet Feeding America’s 2025 goal of ensuring access to enough nutritious food for people struggling with hunger, and make meaningful progress toward ending hunger. To learn more or join in this work, contact Feeding America.

Traci Simmons is the Program Coordinator on the Community Health and Nutrition team at Feeding America. Her work includes supporting food banks in adopting nutrition education strategies through the development, implementation and dissemination of nudges. She also manages content on HungerandHealth.org.