“Within the past 12 months, have you worried that your food would run out before you had money to buy more?” This is a question many of us wouldn’t expect during a annual physical or clinic visit, however, it is exactly the type of question providers at Lakewood Health System are now using to screen individuals for food insecurity during clinic visits.
Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to adequate food needed for an active, healthy life, and according to Lakewood’s most recent community health needs assessment, it is one of several key social determinants of health affecting people in our service area. Through this assessment, it has been determined 20% of children in Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties identify as food insecure, and 2 out of every 3 adults aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables.
Working collaboratively with Lakewood Engage, a community health initiative, Lakewood clinics have now implemented a series of questions used during clinic visits to help screen for food insecurity.
“We know food insecurity can adversely impact the health and development of both children and adults,” said Dr. John Halfen, Chief Medical Officer at Lakewood. “If we are able to identify food insecure individuals in the clinic setting, we can provide immediate resources and education through our Engage food access initiatives, while also working to provide long-term solutions to this issue.”
An example of an immediate tool available to Lakewood care team members is an acute care pack. If needed, this package provides a variety of healthy food options designed to fulfill 72 hours’ worth of need. The package also includes three recipe cards to help participants utilize the food content, provides connectively to Lakewood’s Community Health Team, and includes a local food resource guide to assist with further access points.
Engage works with numerous community partners to address food access concerns in our region. This work, also known as the Healthy Food Collaborative, strives to positively impact the communities we serve by increasing access to safe, nutritious and affordable food for positive health impact. Three additional food access interventions and tools available are:
- Food Farmacy—An individually tailored food intervention, designed to provide healthy food options, educate, set goals, and provide ongoing support.
- Fresh Delivered—A home-based healthy food program connecting seniors with healthy food in their homes.
- Farmers Market—Engage sponsors the Staples Area Farmers Market. The market is open every Thursday afternoon in the summer from 2:00-5:30 outside Lakewood Health System’s main campus. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants can double up to $10 SNAP dollars each week.
The advanced screening began in April and now takes place at all clinic appointments with the exception of same day or quick care visits. Prior to this, Lakewood had done limited screening for food insecurity with children at select clinics. This process is now embedded in EPIC, Lakewood’s electronic health record and is and used to identify these types of non-clinical social factors which may impact overall patient health and well-being.
For more information on Engage and the Healthy Food Collaborative, visit our website at lakewoodhealthsystem.com.