As a research center within CHOP, PolicyLab faculty and staff are uniquely positioned to understand and address health and social challenges facing families in our community and children across the country. Food insecurity has long been one of those issues—and it became one of the most pressing during the pandemic.
Access to fresh produce is particularly difficult for families experiencing food insecurity. After schools closed in 2020, removing a reliable source of healthy meals for many children, Danielle Cullen, MD, MPH, MSHP, and her team partnered with the St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children to launch Farm to Families. Building on the team’s experience and past research, the program offers boxes of organic fruits and vegetables to caregivers at CHOP primary care sites based on a sliding-scale payment model. Families can also purchase boxes using EBT benefits. The team has conducted brief surveys and interviews about the program with participating families to further understand COVID-19’s influence on food insecurity among vulnerable populations. In just 12 weeks, they distributed boxes to reach more than 6,400 individuals and ultimately, they hope to inform the long-term sustainability and impact of a program like this to provide healthy food for families at clinical care sites.
Whether uncovering a problem while seeing patients and families, or seeking to answer a question raised by our community and clinical partners or local organizations, PolicyLab researchers are hard at work developing and evaluating evidence-based interventions to address issues impacting youth. These innovative efforts are an important step to building sustainable, replicable programs and policies that are responsive to community needs. Here, you’ll see just a few examples of interventions underway within each of our five research portfolios.
Our faculty and staff value the opportunity to give back to the Philadelphia community we call home, and many of us engage in volunteer work throughout the year. One of our long-standing volunteer initiatives is the Reading Buddies Program PolicyLab started in 2015. Through this program, our team members travel weekly to Alain Locke Elementary School in West Philadelphia to read one-on-one with second to fourth grade students. Our goal is to help them improve their reading skills, gain confidence and learn the importance of reading for fun. At the same time, the program provides our team with the invaluable chance to connect with and learn from children who are living in the communities in which PolicyLab hopes to have an impact.
While many of our annual volunteering events were put on hold this year, we did have a successful virtual holiday toy drive for Lutheran Settlement House, which serves children, adults and families in Philadelphia. Our staff fulfilled all of the items on the families’ wish lists in a matter of days, hoping to help make a challenging year a little brighter.
PolicyLab walks the talk of community-engaged research. The families with young children we serve at Maternity Care Coalition have faced a particularly tough year, especially new moms who have found themselves without traditional support systems due to the pandemic. Our research with PolicyLab’s interdisciplinary team has informed our ability to address postpartum depression and provide virtual parenting support.