Successes, Challenges, and Considerations for Integrating Referral into Food Insecurity Screening in Pediatric Settings

Food insecurity, lack of access to enough food for an active and healthy life, is associated with poor child health. Three pediatric clinics implemented a two- question food insecurity screening of 7,284 families with children younger than five years. Over one thousand (1,133, 15.6%) reported food insecurity and 630 (55.6%) were referred to a benefits access organization for connection to public benefits and community resources. This study evaluated the efficacy of screening and referral through process evaluation, key informant interviews, and focus groups with 19 caregivers and 11 clinic staff. Using grounded theory, transcript themes were coded into facilitators and barriers of screening and referral. Facilitators included trust between caregivers and staff, choice of screening methods, and assistance navigating benefits application. Barriers included complex administration of referral, privacy and stigma concerns, and caregivers’ current benefit enrollment or ineligibility. Results demonstrate importance of integrated screening and referral consent processes, strong communication, and convenient outreach for families.