In Striking Nationwide Trend, Hospitals Take on Hunger to Improve Overall Health

In 2017, the Watauga Medical Center in North Carolina’s High Country, where food insecurity nears 29 percent, began asking all new patients two questions to screen their food-insecurity levels upon admittance.

The first patient to answer yes was a woman who had come in to give birth. She admitted to the hospital staff that she had skipped her prenatal appointments so that she could afford to buy food for her family. When she was discharged with her newborn, the hospital provided the new mother with a large box of food and a contact at the local food bank.

“When I was approached about the possibility of partnering [with a food bank] and providing food boxes to patients with food insecurity, I knew it was the right thing to do,” said Robin Fox, Director of Care Management for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which oversees the food insecurity screening process at the medical center.