New Screening Tool at Doctor's Office Helps Families Facing Food Insecurity

Apr 6, 2018

A two-question screening tool that's now being used at primary care doctor's offices in southern Maine, is helping families experiencing food insecurity to find resources they need.

Maine Medical Partners, a division of Maine Health, is using the "Hunger Vital Sign," to find and help those families. Pediatrician Dr. Lucy Amory says since late January, all kids ages one to five get the two-question screener when they come in for their annual physicals.

“It asks two pretty basic questions: in the past year was the family ever worried that their food would run out before they had money to buy more, or in the last year, did the food they bought not last long enough and they didn't have money to buy more?” Amory says.

If the family answers yes to either of those, it's entered into the electronic health record system, and the patients get referred to hunger programs like SNAP and WIC, as well as to local food pantries.

Maine has one of the nations' highest rates of food insecurity at more than one-fifth of families. Food insecurity is associated with anemia, asthma, obesity and mental health issues, among other health and behavioral problems.