We recently hosted our Hunger Action Summit, an annual forum on local hunger sponsored by Santa Clara University’s Food and Agribusiness Institute, a part of the Leavey School of Business. This year’s theme was, “Food As Medicine: The Intersection of Hunger and Health.” We talked about how anti-hunger advocates can work with health providers to access a basic prescription for good health – nutritious food.

Our CEO Kathy Jackson asked the audience if they thought of the food bank as a health care provider. The response was split, with many in the audience holding up green cards to say “yes,” while others held up red cards to indicate a “no” response. We were determined to have everyone think of the food bank as a health care provider by the end of the event.

Here are some summit highlights:

  • S. Andrew Starbird, dean of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, presented the 2013 Hunger Index which showed that an estimated 814 million meals were required for all low-income households in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in 2013. Researchers estimate that these families were able to afford enough food to provide 417 million meals, or a little more than half of their daily food needs. Food-assistance programs provided 221 million meals, leaving a gap of 176 million meals.
  • Lead researcher Courtney Robinson, graduate research assistant at the Food and Agribusiness Institute, presented the “Cost of a Healthy Meal,” a multi-year research project that studies the long-term social, economic, and nutritional value of food for low-income families in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Her team found that 30% of the produce eaten daily by research subjects comes from the food bank.
  • A panel discussion featuring Dr. Lisa Chamberlain, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, and Dr. Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation looked at how good nutrition is necessary to establish a foundation for a child’s health, academic achievement, and, ultimately, economic productivity. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain called for incentivizing health providers to screen for hunger. Photographer Karen Ande also participated in the discussion. Her “Who’s Hungry?” photo exhibit was on display at the event and posters and ads featuring photos from the exhibit will appear across North California soon, starting with federally funded health centers.
  • Dr. Hilary Seligman, Associate Professor of Medicine of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at University of California, San Francisco and Core Faculty at Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, discussed the link between food insecurity and chronic diseases. She noted that 50% of the U.S. population, ages 20-65 years old, will be on food stamps at some point.
  • Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School put forth a clear ‘food as medicine’ framework and he urged the audience to define how services they provide might fit into this framework.
  • The inspiring and powerful event ended with Second Harvest staff handing out “food prescription pads” and apples, reminding everyone that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

    ***Visit our Hunger Action Summit resource page for presentations, recorded livestream of the event, and more!