Why SBHCs? Benefits to Addressing Food Insecurity through an SBHC

Improving access to healthy food and federal food programs can have significant impact on families and children.
Effective programs exist to close the gap between kids who have enough to eat and those who don’t. Too often, however, these programs aren’t reaching the kids who need them. SBHCs can offer a solution to this problem.  As noted in the SIHE series, School-based health centers (SBHCs) are a trusted resource and conduit to varied health efforts and outcomes –from primary care to mental health, oral health, and more. They can also play a critical role in addressing social determinants of health, including food insecurity. As indicated by the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model, when kids’ whole selves are supported, outcomes improve. 

   b) SBHCs can mitigate food insecurity for students and families by: 

  • considering food insecurity as a critical factor for achieving overall health and identifying students and families who may be experiencing food insecurity.
  • maximizing enrollment of Medicaid Beneficiaries in SNAP, WIC, School and Summer Meal programs 
  • Connecting families to other community food resources, such as food pantries, gardens or double up SNAP programs.  
  • Providing wrap around education support on selecting, preparing and eating nutritious foods.   
  • advocating for policies that would improve access and strengthen child nutrition programs and SNAP, and advocating for policies that decrease poverty or other address other root causes of food insecurity.  

SBHCs are able to integrate food access interventions where children spend the majority of their time and directly connect families in need to programs that can help.  These models are reviewed in more detail in section 4 Interventions – Promising Models

Families have reported physicians and school health personnel as highly trusted source of information and referrals.   

   a) Building on this trust, families are more likely to follow up s on food resources offered by a trusted messenger.    
   b) Caregivers may be more likely to respond positively to a food resource referral when it is framed in terms of supporting health for their child(ren).   

The SBHCLN has demonstrated success and tangible outcomes, including increased connections to preventative care by offering food supports.   

   a) The Midpoint Evaluation survey for the No Kid Hungry Learning Network demonstrates the efficacy of SBHC integrated food insecurity programming. Successes include: 

  1. Surveys/outreach to families is effective in identifying food needs and food resource preferences 
  1. SBHC’s were able to identify and cultivate community partnerships to address food insecurity, regardless of size of Center, school district or community.  
  1. Implementing food access interventions led to opportunities to connect more families with the SBHC health services and preventative care.  
  1. High participation by students and families in food programming resources and nutrition education.