For years, hunger-relief has been viewed by many as a social service, with very little connection to health or health care. However, in 2016 I am thrilled to report that this perspective has truly started to shift, not only at the national level but throughout communities across the country. This year, we have seen unprecedented interest across the public health and health care sectors to incorporate and address food insecurity and at the same time anti-hunger organizations like Feeding America and the network of food banks increasingly embrace not only our role in providing meals, but also our role in the promotion of health for the people and communities we serve. These shifts did not happen overnight and have evolved in large part because of the growing body of research and increased evidence that links food insecurity to health—as a community we have come to understand that across the lifespan, food insecurity is linked to poorer dietary intake, poorer physical, psychological and behavioral health and poorer disease management. And as Drs. Hilary Seligman and Seth Berkowitz shared at this year’s Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington DC, A LOT changed in 2015 including:
A few notable highlights from the year include:
The exciting part is that this is just the beginning! The anti-hunger and health communities are coming together at unprecedented levels to conduct research, provide food, conduct health screenings, partner for the community benefit and much more! As we all embrace the reality that hunger really is a health issue, the opportunities we have to breakdown our own sector’s silos are limitless. As we have seen just in this year, we really can do more when we do it together.
*Michelle Berger Marshall is the director of health and community nutrition at Feeding America. You can learn more about our efforts for provide nutritious food and resources to people in need at the Healthy Food Bank Hub.