FAN - Food Access and Nutrition Security
Food insecurity negatively affects children’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity. Research shows an association between food insecurity and delayed development in young children; risk of chronic illnesses such as asthma and anemia; and behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, anxiety and aggression in school‐age children and adolescents.
Trusted for its long-standing expertise, Lurie Children’s provides leadership for West Side United’s (WSU) Healthy Food Strategy Working Group and Food Pantry Support Initiative. Through this work, FAN is helping seven West Side food pantries to serve more clients, offer more fresh produce, nutritious foods, and provide nutrition education.
WSU hospitals support several pantries in Austin, Belmont Cragin, Oak Park (serving Austin), Humboldt Park, West Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, and North Lawndale. Lurie Children’s assists pantries to help them align with the “key pantry characteristics” in the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s capacity continuum. One of the areas all partner pantries identified as a need is nutrition education. In response, FAN developed the Food Pantry Nutrition Education Toolkit as a resource for food pantries and nutrition education partners. The toolkit includes monthly themes and links to handouts and other nutrition education support materials.
From September 2019 to April 2023, the number of key pantry characteristics met rose from 50 percent to 77 percent. The increases were seen in the areas of champion advocacy (supporting the emergency food system through advocacy), health care referrals, and nutrition education. In a follow-up assessment, all pantries reported that working with WSU and their hospital partner increased the pantry’s capacity and helped them to better serve their clients.