Written by Geeta Wadhwani

There are many people working every day to improve and sustain community health, including food pantries, food banks, clinics, nurses, doctors, health departments and many others. All are working to increase access to nutritious and healthy foods – each playing an important and unique role.

Working together to increase access to healthy food
Cross sector collaboration is no easy task. It takes honest conversation, time to develop trusted relationships and being united for an issue. Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (the Alliance), Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, Friedens Food Pantry, Data You Can Use and Milwaukee Health Department, have been working together for over two years to increase access to FoodShare in Milwaukee. FoodShare is Wisconsin’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), providing benefits for families with limited income to purchase groceries.

Each organization came to the table with their own set of strengths and areas of expertise. A key strength that Feeding America has, is community outreach. They know the process, paperwork and steps needed to successfully enroll individuals, or families, in FoodShare.

Within Children’s Wisconsin, doctors and nurses monitor and manage health conditions and may ask if families worry about food. Healthy foods can be expensive for families and having FoodShare benefits can help – getting nutritious food is important for kids to grow up healthy and strong.

Each organization has a different and unique role to address health and nutrition. Our role (the Alliance’s food security initiative) was determining how we could bring them together.

Integrating FoodShare
The team decided to test placing a Feeding America outreach specialist in the clinic setting to assist with FoodShare enrollment.

The planning started in the fall of 2022 – funding was secured and the roles of both the Children’s Wisconsin and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin teams were determined. The teams collaborated to finalize the formal agreement, create signage and hold a clinic tour. By the middle of June, the plan was set to begin! This project includes a quality improvement approach, meaning the idea is tested so the team can see how it works and make adjustments or improvements along the way.

FoodShare in action
On Brooklyn’s first day, the Feeding America outreach specialist, she was placed at a table in the clinic waiting room… and nobody was approaching the table.

She tested something different by walking around the room asking about interest in enrollment – success!

This is only the beginning of our team’s efforts. Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin will continue to show up at the Children’s Wisconsin Midtown clinic and bridge the gap between families and health care, as it relates to access to healthy food. The team will continue to work to improve the process, spread the word and develop practices that can be shared to other areas of the city and eventually the state.

Our team is passionate about connecting different organizations to collectively address food security for all children. Are you?

Learn more about the food security initiative here.