Doctors and health systems find novel ways to address hunger and its causes

Originally posted on Fern’s AG Insider.

Allison Bovell-Ammon, director of policy strategy at Children’s HealthWatch, an advocacy and research organization headquartered at Boston Medical Center, described some of the ways the medical center addresses the drivers of health inequities. It started the first hospital-based food pantry in the country and has subsequently added a range of programs that address poverty, housing instability and unemployment. Parents can get free tax preparation help while their children see their pediatricians, and they can also get financial counseling and help repairing their credit scores. Another program addresses unemployment and affordable housing.

Bovell-Ammon also presented research highlighting disparities in families’ access to the programs that were intended to help them endure the economic hardships related to the pandemic. A survey of 1,200 pediatric patients’ families found that, early in the pandemic, families overall reported increases in household food insecurity, child food insecurity and being behind on rent. But families with U.S.-born mothers were better able to access help—96 percent of these families received either SNAP benefits or stimulus payments.