Before your center begins to address food security as a social driver of health for students and their families it is important to consider both readiness and resources.   

While individual staff at the center may feel very strongly about the importance of addressing social drivers of health and improving access to healthy foods, like any other project or initiative, it is critical to have buy in at multiple levels of your organization to better ensure sustainability.  As you consider your center’s readiness to embark on a food security initiative, be mindful of the following:  

  • Does addressing food security align with other organizational goals and priorities?   
          – Perhaps your Center has a goal of improving a specific health outcome or engaging more students in preventative care.  Think strategically about how improving access and consumption of healthy foods may help to achieve these broader goals.  Communicate to organizational leadership the ways in which healthy food access can support other goals or activities of the center.   Identify how you will measure the success of a food security intervention and what data will be needed to communicate success.   
  • What is the capacity for addressing food insecurity within your Center services and how could this initiative impact your operations?   
         – It is important to consider not only buy in from leadership, but also from all center staff that may be involved in a food security initiative.  Engage early and often to get feedback, hear concerns and identify opportunities within existing processes.  For example, if you intend to implement a food security screening and referral process, how will this screening integrate in existing work flows?  What training will be needed?   
  • Finally, recognition that the process of assessing readiness and building that infrastructure of support will take time.   


“I think school-based health centers that don't have like a formal food security program, it's just a lot of infrastructure that needs built up and a lot of conversations to be had.”

Assessing community assets and needs related to food access is another key step before moving forward with a food security initiative.  Mapping existing resources and potential partners that can support families in food access can help reduce capacity burdens on center staff.    

“Partnership is key.  Each of our partner schools has additional community organizations they collaborate with to provide services to students.  Creating partnership of our own with those community organizations has been vital to the planning process.” “Explore what food programming and organizations already exist in your community for potential partnerships and resources.”

“The school-based clinic is a good partner for many food security organizations in the community. We have found that many organizations have resources but have trouble connecting them to individuals in need. We provide a solution to this ‘last mile problem.”

  • What is the capacity of the center and staff to address gaps in food access?  

A range of possibilities from screening and referral to onsite food support is possible.  Examples of different models are discussed in more detail in section 4 of this toolkit.  Consider what is feasible in your center and start there.   

  • How are you involving students and families in the needs assessment and planning process?   How might your food access initiative be informed and led by the community?  How will you plan for continued engagement, feedback gathering and program adjustments?   

“Gather important survey data from school families, which is essential to informing the program design.”