Atlanta “Comes to the Table”

November 20, 2014

Maria Belding, Alliance to End Hunger

On November 14, nearly a hundred experts, stakeholders and concerned citizens from the anti-hunger and medical communities gathered for the third regional Come to the Table summit at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Planned by ProMedica and the Alliance to End Hunger, the event, like its predecessors in DC and Chicago, gave participants the opportunity to learn about the newest innovations, practices and policies to prevent hunger and health complications stemming from food insecurity.

Featuring more than a dozen speakers, an interactive activity and networking opportunities, the Come to The Table Atlanta summit focused on hunger as a health issue and innovative interventions developed by community groups, hospital systems and advocacy organizations to address hunger and its devastating effects. “We know that if a patient is food insecure or doesn’t have transportation access, they’ll come right back,” said Dr. Lee Hammerling, Chief Medical Officer for ProMedica, referring to extensive data collected by the hospital system that reveals that readmission rates for patients with such

Summit participants discuss hunger and health in their communities with other attendees. (Photo: Maria Belding, Alliance to End Hunger)

Summit participants discuss hunger and health in their communities with other attendees. (Photo: Maria Belding, Alliance to End Hunger)

issues are significantly higher than those with adequate nutrition and a way to get to it. This research and more discussed throughout the day also highlighted additional barriers to aiding patients with food security issues. ProMedica found that patients asked by a nurse or other provider were less likely to acknowledge a struggle with hunger as compared to those who were posed the same question on an online form, highlighting the power of anonymity in accurately gauging patient needs. Another highly successful strategy discussed involved the use of hospitals as summer meal sites, creating lifelines for vulnerable children and viable programs for healthcare systems. Addressing the hunger needs of their neighborhoods not only fulfills hospitals’ basic call to take care of their communities, but acts as powerful preventative care. Further, these meals may be reimbursable by the USDA, lowering cost barriers for hospitals wishing to enact such initiatives.

Audrey Rowe, Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Services of the US Department of Agriculture, delivered a rousing speech on problems and progress in nutrition and health issues. Praising the innovations of ProMedica and other hospital systems, Administrator Rowe noted that “this is only the first step” in making significant headway against food insecurity, obesity and associated medical problems. “We can end hunger in America. We can improve the health and lives of American children,” she said.