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Food for Thought: An Evaluation of Food Insecurity Screening Methods and Location

Statement of Problem

When kids go hungry, it takes a toll on nearly every aspect of their health. From increased risk of asthma and anxiety to cognitive delay and hospitalizationfood insecurity is a strong predictor of poor health outcomes. In Philadelphia, nearly 1 in 4 children was food insecure in 2019, a number that continued to climb during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For these reasons, medical providers have been increasingly interested in screening for food insecurity and other social determinants of health. However, little is known about how to screen families for a social need like food insecurity in a way that is comfortable and elicits an accurate report of the challenges they face. Furthermore, few studies have examined why rates of engagement with resources are low even after a referral is provided.


Next Steps

These findings have influenced social risk screening protocols at CHOP and throughout southeast Pennsylvania via the COACH collaborative, with implementation of social risk screening tools using a tablet. While we found overall high levels of comfort with screening, it is notable that comfort levels were lower among those reporting food insecurity, with caregivers expressing fear of stigma or negative repercussions as a consequence of reporting social risk. 

This and other emerging literature emphasize the potential for unintended consequences with social risk screening and have led to a growing interest in a model of universally offered social assistance, rather than one of screening and intervention. Our team will be launching a new study to further elevate the caregiver perspective, systematically exploring how screening affects families’ acceptance, perception and engagement with social resources.

This project page was last updated in March 2022. 

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Food for Thought: An Evaluation of Food Insecurity Screening Methods and Location [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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