The New Way That Pediatricians Will Look Out for Hungry Kids – The Atlantic

The academy also said pediatricians should familiarize themselves with local food banks, food-stamp programs, and free-lunch programs in order to help families who report not being able to afford enough food.

“The link between good nutrition and health is absolute,” Sandra Hassink, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in an interview. “Children with food insecurity have more abdominal pain, more illnesses, more trouble concentrating, more trouble in schools.”

Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg, the director of pediatric gastroenterology at the
University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and one of the lead authors of the AAP’s new policy statement, said pediatricians could ask families about their food needs during well-child visits or other appointments that aren’t related to a specific, stressful ailment. The goal is to spur needy families, who are sometimes ashamed of their predicaments, to say something.

Otherwise, Schwarzenberg said, “you might not think your pediatrician would be interested. They might be actively covering up the fact that their financial situation has changed.”

The move represents the academy’s focus on poverty as an underpinning factor in child health. Last year, the group recommended that its members tell parents to read aloud to their children from birth—a moved aimed at closing the so-called “word gap” between rich and poor children.

In an interview before a speech at the AAP conference Monday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it helps that almost every parent already has a bond with their child’s doctor. “I don’t know of another group who’s more trusted than in society today than a pediatrician,” he said.