Texas pediatricians to start screening for hunger, thanks to new $20K grant

The grant from No Kid Hungry helps bring a crucial topic into the safe space of a pediatrician’s office

SAN ANTONIO – Holidays are associated with many joyous things but some tough topics as well, like hunger.

As kids take their holiday breaks, many are pulled from their main food source at school.

In Bexar County, there are 112,810 food insecure as of 2020, according to data from Feeding Texas and the USDA.

In San Antonio, one in four kids is food insecure. In Texas, it’s one in five.

That’s one of the reasons for a new grant from the organization No Kid Hungry, aiming to end child hunger across the country. They are putting the power of change in the hands of Texas pediatricians.

The pediatrician’s office is often a safe space for families.

“On average, parents will see their pediatrician up to 20 times in their child’s first five years of life,” said Stacie Sanchez Hare, the director of the No Kid Hungry Texas Campaign.

The organization leaders thought, why not bring the crucial topic of food instability into those exam rooms?

“We are now providing a screening for those pediatricians to ask questions about hunger and food insecurity, to be able to flag if this family needs resources,” Sanchez Hare said.

Twenty thousand dollars from No Kid Hungry was just granted to the Texas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, so they could train their doctors in hunger screening, and then facilitate the screening process.

The training will teach the pediatricians how to address the sensitive topic correctly, and then if necessary, refer to the correct resources.

“Bringing the conversation up, having the right questions that don’t make people feel ashamed or stigmatized,” Sanchez Hare said. “There’s a lot of stigma around hunger, particularly among parents who feel it’s your job to make sure your child has enough.”

Sanchez Hare is also a mom, and in her line of work she understands that being food insecure is a hard thing for parents to admit

However, she wants parents to know they should never feel shame for needing a little extra help.

“We’re in a 40-year inflation high. Every parent is feeling the pinch of gas, electricity, bills,” Sanchez Hare said.

Sanchez Hare believes simple yet specific questions from pediatricians can make a powerful difference.

“I’ve never been asked questions like that on my pediatrician visits, so I think being able to break that silence and break that stigma and bring it up in conversation is just part of our health wellness check,” she said. “Just like he’s checking if my son’s growing at the right height, and getting his shots.”

It’s a way to more quickly “diagnose” a real health issue that often remains invisible.

“It is hard to tell someone is experiencing hunger if they do not come out and say so,” Sanchez Hare said.

She hopes parents will feel compelled to speak to their doctors with honesty, so they can lead them to the correct resources.

Anyone who needs access to food or is experiencing food insecurity can call 211, or go to 211texas.org for resources on food, health, housing, and more.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Alex Trevino is an assignments editor at KSAT who previously worked as the senior video editor and photojournalist.

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