Ask an Expert: Nutrition Security in Clinical Practice

Ask an Expert: Nutrition Security in Clinical Practice

A nutrition expert shares how pediatric institutions can help families access food resources.

This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Children’s Hospital Association teamed up to produce a three-part webinar series exploring ways that children’s hospitals and pediatric practices can address the hunger needs of children and families. In one of the webinars, Kimberly G. Montez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, provides clinical strategies for pediatricians to help families access food resources. Montez, associate director of the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brenner Childrenʼs Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has worked with AAP on a national level to elevate the topic of food insecurity and educate and encourage pediatricians to screen, intervene and advocate.

What is nutrition security and how is it different than food security?

Nutrition security refers to the consistent, equitable access to a sufficient, safe and nutritious food supply to optimize health and well-being and meet the food preferences of all individuals. Food security, on the other hand, primarily focuses on the availability, affordability and accessibility of sufficient amounts of food on a consistent basis. Therefore, food security focuses mainly on availability and access, while nutrition security encompasses food security but emphasizes the overall quality and nutritional value of the food. Both concepts are interdependent and necessary for ensuring the overall health and well-being of individuals and communities.

What is the role of children’s hospitals in nutrition security?

Children’s hospitals provide vital health services, including nutrition assessments, nutrition education, and screening and intervention for health-related social needs, such as food insecurity. Pediatricians have frequent contact with young children and families given the number of well-child visits during the first three years of life. Therefore, they are positioned to screen and intervene during the first 1,000 days of life when optimal nutrition is critical for healthy neurodevelopment and lifelong mental health.

What are ways pediatric practices can address food needs?

Pediatric practices can start screening and intervening for food insecurity. The AAP/FRAC Toolkit provides an excellent guide for how to get started and what steps to take. The webinar provides specific examples of how practices can address families’ food needs, including onsite food provision and direct referrals to the federal nutrition programs.

Join CHA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for “Promoting Food Access for Kids: How the Pediatric Community Can Effect Change,” a three-part, on-demand webinar series exploring ways children’s hospitals and pediatric practices can address the hunger needs of children and families.

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