A Prescription For A Full Belly

Research shows that one in three American adults with chronic disease have trouble paying for food or medicine. Erin Marcus considers how to address this link between illness and food insecurity:

The SNAP program, for the most part, operates independently of the health system. Applicants aren’t required to meet with a health professional, and most internists and other adult medical specialists don’t routinely make direct referrals to the program.

But what if SNAP were more like WIC, and referrals to the program became second nature for clinics serving chronically ill, low-income people? … One idea might be for clinic check-in staff to screen patients for food insecurity when they arrive for their appointment, perhaps by having them answer some questions on a tablet or mobile phone that would automatically trigger a referral to SNAP. It doesn’t have to be complicated—one study found that a single question—“In the past month, was there any day when you or anyone in your family went hungry because you did not have enough money for food?”—was effective at determining food insecurity among parents at a clinic serving low-income children.