2020-2021 Emerging Fellow Aditi Madhusudan offers a blueprint for reimagining the food insecurity ecosystem in Georgia, recommending that health care centers, state agencies, and community organizations work together to ensure that Georgia’s most vulnerable residents can access critical nutritional assistance programs.
Many Georgia residents struggle with food insecurity: An estimated one out of eight people in Georgia were considered to be food insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic, with about one out of every six children in the state facing food insecurity. Food insecurity is associated with various diet-related illnesses, so it is crucial that families and individuals suffering from food insecurity have access to assistance.
To receive support in obtaining sources of food, eligible Georgia residents can enroll in federally funded nutrition assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is widely recognized as one of the most effective programs funded by the federal government, yet several barriers limit its reach, and it is often underutilized in low-income communities. A lack of awareness about eligibility for the program, stigma about receiving assistance, the lengthy application process, and administrative burdens have been cited as barriers for enrollment in the program, leaving many eligible families without any assistance.
In “Tackling the SNAP Gap in Georgia: Addressing Food Insecurity and Barriers to Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” Aditi Madhusudan explores interventions state agencies can take to help more Georgia residents enroll in SNAP, including:
- The Georgia Department of Community Health should establish statewide best practices for addressing food insecurity in health care facilities across Georgia, namely by promoting usage of the highly effective Hunger Vital Sign screening tool, by providing guidance to clinicians on how to approach discussions on food insecurity, and by outlining the types of community resources food insecure patients should be referred to..
- The Division of Family and Children Services within Georgia’s Department of Human Services should work to expand partnerships and foster relationships between health care facilities, senior centers, and community-based organizations across the state that can provide referrals or critical on-site assistance with initial SNAP applications and renewals.
Together, Madhusudan explains, these interventions can benefit Georgians experiencing food insecurity by providing additional avenues for initial SNAP enrollment and renewals, increasing awareness of SNAP, decreasing administrative burdens for both individuals and state agencies, and reducing the stigma associated with experiencing food insecurity and receiving SNAP benefits.