$150,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation will help expand hospital’s efforts to address food insecurity
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is launching an innovative program to deliver food to the homes of patients with food insecurity, supported by $150,000 in new funding from the Cigna Foundation. The goal is to provide reliable access to healthy food for over 100 families, including those whose financial burdens have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Food insecurity is a significant barrier to children’s health,” says Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children housed at Lurie Children’s and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Healthy food access has been an ongoing challenge for many families, and now with the pandemic, families are struggling financially more than ever. The food retail environment in some Chicago communities has also been hard-hit by the economic crisis with food stores and restaurants at reduced capacity, or even closing. With our new home food delivery program, we hope to reduce the burden on vulnerable families, especially those who are caring for children with medical complexity.”
Home food delivery is an expansion of Lurie Children’s overall strategy to address food insecurity. Two years ago, the hospital opened Chicago’s first onsite food pantry in a pediatric clinic. The current pilot, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, will help Lurie Children’s establish procedures to identify and serve families in need of delivery. These will be the foundation of the new initiative.
With new funding from the Cigna Foundation, social workers will screen patients and their families for food insecurity, as well as other social needs. They will link families to community resources, including supports that integrate education on nutrition, child development and positive parenting.
“Providing healthy food for kids does more than ensure they don’t go to bed hungry today – it offers them peace of mind and supports their future wellbeing and growth,” said Brian Marsella, Midwest market president for Cigna. “We are proud to support the important work Lurie Children’s is doing to address hunger and other health disparities that affect the youngest members of our community.”
“Food insecurity is a problem with causes that go beyond individual and family factors. Economic disinvestment, food-related policy, and other factors at the city, state, and federal levels greatly influence people’s access to healthy food. It is critically important for us to address these ‘upstream’ social influencers of health even as we partner with families in order to achieve optimal health outcomes for their children,” says Dr. Becker. “This is one of the key priorities Lurie Children’s identified through our Community Health Needs Assessment.”
The Cigna Foundation, established in 1962, is a private foundation funded by contributions from Cigna Corporation and its subsidiaries. The Cigna Foundation supports organizations sharing its commitment to enhancing the health of individuals and families, and the well-being of their communities, with a special focus on those communities where Cigna employees live and work.
All community-focused initiatives at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago are led by the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities. The Magoon Institute builds strong collaborations with community organizations to address root causes of health disparities. It also facilitates community-engaged outreach and research initiatives to advance and implement evidence-informed child and adolescent health programs and practices. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries, with over half of its patients insured by Medicaid and more than one-third living in under-resourced communities.