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Take the Lead: Children’s hospitals are key to addressing food insecurity & pediatric health and wellness

Take the Lead is a blog series from Teri Nestel, president and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In this leadership-focused series, Teri will share her insights and leadership lessons alike.

Our organization (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals) is committed to ensuring that every child receives the best possible health care. That includes access to the nutrition they need to maintain good physical, emotional, and mental health so they can thrive and reach their full potential.

According to the latest data from the USDA, nearly 15% of U.S. households with children are affected by food insecurity. That’s 1 in 6 children who don’t have enough food to meet their needs or don’t know where their next meal will come from. And the challenge is even greater for Black and Hispanic families, who are twice as likely to struggle with food insecurity.

So many factors like shortages driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising food prices have further strained access to food and sapped the resources of food distribution programs.

Because of their unique, holistic relationship of caring for children and their families, children’s hospitals have a critical role in addressing food insecurity, not just during hospital stays, but beyond the hospital’s walls. More than 96% of our member hospitals offer food insecurity resources or programs, collectively reaching more than 98% of the U.S. population.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals provides unrestricted funds. Meaning member hospitals can use them for urgent needs like:

  • Hospital Food Bank & Distribution Programs: 40% of member hospitals offer food banks and distribution programs for patients and families identified as food insecure, such as on-site food pantries, food pharmacies, or gardens.
  • Community Food Bank Partnerships: 76% of member hospitals partner with community food banks through financial support, joint programs, food drives, and other collaborations.
  • Food Insecurity Resources: 89% of member hospitals offer food insecurity resources or programs, such as online libraries, community resource guides, community classes, school programs, screenings, and research studies.

Children’s hospitals can help identify and mitigate challenges that might otherwise go unnoticed and unaddressed, like the intersection of health, financial and emotional wellbeing.

These are key to the next generation’s future success and positive outcomes.