In March, I had the privilege of participating in Feeding America’s partner call, and the emergency food assistance program statewide partner call with a few of our FoodCare Milwaukee coalition members. These calls bring statewide partners together to learn and share. We had the opportunity to talk about health care policies that will impact various community based organizations.

You might be asking yourself what do health care policies have to do with organizations like food banks, food pantries and other community based organizations? The short answer is a lot!

Thinking about health differently
Factors beyond traditional health care profoundly impact community health. Federal health care accrediting and rule making entities, like the Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare, Medicare services and National Committee for Quality Assurance, are all thinking about health differently. They understand that social and economic factors keep people healthy or make them sick, and as a result have made some policy changes aimed at improving disparities in health.

These agencies have made commitments to equity. While that can, and often does, mean many things, in this case we were talking about health plans and health systems working on implementing processes to screen for social factors including food, housing, transportation insecurity and refer to community based organizations for services.

The impact on local organizations
I was excited to be joined by Val MacMillan, interim executive director from Friedens Food Pantry, who highlighted the impact of these policies at the local level. Friedens Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in Milwaukee, and plays an important role in navigating the community based service system, providing food/nutrition services while they work to create a sense of community that extends beyond the provision of services. MacMillan shared that in practice, the impact of these policies could range from a call from a health organization for more information, requests to provide boxed groceries, help setting up a network of pantries, or adding technology to help “close the loop.”

The impact of these policies may be felt by many local organizations statewide. The knowledge and expertise that these organizations bring to the table are a critical voice when it comes to the health of the communities they serve. Equitable partnerships between health systems and community based organizations continues to be at the forefront of our food security initiative as we work to support these types of policies focused on social needs and social determinants of health.

Learn more
To learn more about the food security initiative, click here to visit our webpage.

Written by:
Geeta Wadhwani, MPH, RN, BSN
Program Leader, Food Security and Medical Home