Exploring the Gap: Food Insecurity and Resource Engagement
Pediatric healthcare institutions are increasingly implementing food insecurity (FI) screens, but there is limited information about participant interest in referral and engagement with resources provided. In this descriptive cross-sectional study, we recruited participants from a consecutive sample of adult caregivers arriving with pediatric patients in the ED at an urban, freestanding children's hospital. Caregivers completed a validated, two-question screen for FI. All participants received a list of food access resources. Direct referral to a partnered community food resource agency was offered to those who screened positive for FI; that agency completed a phone call to the participant for resource provision within 2 weeks. Among the 1818 participants recruited, 20.6% (375) screened positive for FI, consistent with the area's reported child FI rate. Of those who screened positive, 54.9% (206) opted to receive a direct-referral via phone call to a food resource agency, and 35.9% (74) of these were reached by phone. 31.1% (23) of those contacted were no longer interested in food resource referrals, 10.8% (8) were signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and 59.5% (44) were referred to local food pantries. Through hospital-community partnership in an initial attempt to screen and offer direct-referral for FI, we elicited considerable interest among families for connection to resource agencies. However, there was a substantial gap between referral acceptance and ultimate connection with the resource agency stemming from two major sources: inability to re-contact and loss of interest after contact.