Hunger is a Health Issue

By Lee W. Hammerling, MD, ProMedica chief medical officer

Chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, can be difficult to manage. The lack of a very basic human need – nutritious food – can further exacerbate these diagnoses. Hunger and malnutrition also can make obesity and mental illness more severe. And hungry or malnourished children are more prone to colds, developmental delays, and other ailments.

With nearly one in six American households unable to determine where their next meal will come from, which is known as food insecurity, hunger is both a prevalent and preventable problem nationwide. More than 50 million Americans, including nearly 17 million children, have food insecurity issues at some time each year. The conditions people encounter daily outside of our hospitals, physician offices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities play a large role in determining their overall health and well-being.

At ProMedica, we are committed to addressing hunger as a health issue with leaders across our industry. In partnership with The Alliance to End Hunger, ProMedica is convening a half-day summit on October 10 in Washington, D.C., called Come to the Table. We aim to bring together U.S. healthcare executives, board members, providers, elected officials, Obama Administration representatives, and others to broaden the dialogue. We encourage healthcare organizations to join us in discussing ways to best address hunger as a health issue and work with federal legislators to protect food-related policies and programs.

Speakers for the summit include leaders from several partner organizations equally committed to ending hunger and improving health care nationwide: the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, The Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, Children’s Health Watch, Meals on Wheels Association of America, and Share Our Strength.

Healthcare organizations can help address hunger in their communities. ProMedica, for instance, is working with large foodservice operations to repackage un-served food for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other sites in our region. Since the program started earlier this year, we have reclaimed more than a dozen tons of food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Additionally, we are beginning to screen patients for hunger and food insecurity so we can discharge them with an emergency food supply and help connect them to community resources for further assistance. To help identify and ultimately end hunger in our region, we also are working with a range of community partners, including government leaders, school systems, food banks, the YMCA, United Way, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, grocery stores, other businesses, and faith-based organizations.

We invite healthcare leaders to Come to the Table to learn more about addressing hunger as a health issue. For more information about the summit, please visit Please visit to register.