The DFW Hospital Council is posting blogs submitted by our Associate Members. The following was provided by Children at Risk. For guidelines, please contact Chris Wilson at [email protected].
Nearly two million Texas children are considered “food insecure,” meaning they have limited access to food and do not know where their next meal will come from. With numbers like these, it is probable you may see children who fit this description in your hospitals and healthcare centers.
These children may be underweight, underdeveloped or in some cases, even obese. Whatever the reason for their visit, in the past there have been minimal tools, physicians or nurses available to help these scores of hungry children.
Now, through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), hospitals across the country’s southern regions can use a “Medical Model” to feed hungry children. This model allows hospitals and clinics to serve fully reimbursable meals, free of charge, to children who walk through their doors.
For many children, going to a hospital or clinic for an appointment or even visiting a loved one, it means missing a meal at school. For those students who qualify for a free or reduced meal, missing a school breakfast or lunch could mean relying on less nutritious foods to fill the gap, or going without a meal entirely. The Medical Model allows hospitals to use federal nutrition programs, similar to those utilized in schools, to provide healthy and nutritious meals to anyone under the age of 18 who is not receiving in-patient care.
Hospitals participating in the Medical Model have great autonomy when implementing the program. For some hospitals, partnering with a local food bank is the most efficient method of meal preparation and delivery. But for others, keeping the entire program in-house works best. For these hospitals, children often receive a “ticket” for a complimentary cafeteria meal. For others, the food is prepackaged and children take the meal from a designated area. No matter the model, the hospital’s primary responsibility is to keep a count of meals served in order to report this number for reimbursement.
This is a program that could truly impact the health and well-being of children throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and its advocacy partner, Children at Risk, are leading the effort to expand this model across Texas.
For more information, please visit the Children at Risk website, childrenatrisk.org, and search “Medical Model.” You can also contact Jenny Eyer, senior policy analyst, at 214-599-0072. Through this program, we can put Texas at the forefront of innovation in the fight against childhood hunger.