Food and Nutrition Security: NCCDPHP’s Program Successes

Hand holding bowl of food

Food and nutrition security means having reliable access to enough high-quality food to avoid hunger and stay healthy. Improving access to nutritious food supports overall health, reduces chronic diseases, and helps people avoid unnecessary health care. That’s why food and nutrition security is one of the key social determinants of health.

CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion funds partners to improve food and nutrition security as part of our work to achieve health equity. Following are examples of successful projects.

Mississippi High Obesity Program Mobile Food Pantry Serves 3,200 Weekly During Pandemic

One in five adults and one in four children in Mississippi have food insecurity, defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. This can be a temporary situation for a household or can last a long time. The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic worsened food insecurity for some people.

The Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension (MSUES) receives funds from CDC’s High Obesity Program to promote community programs that (1) improve the food system to increase access to healthier foods and (2) bring together partners to connect sidewalks, paths, bicycle routes, and public transit with homes, early care and education, schools, worksites, and parks or recreation centers.

MSUES worked with the Lexington Food Pantry to organize the logistics, supplies, and promotion for an outdoor mobile drive-through food pantry or “food giveaway” so that people could stay in their cars and be socially distant during COVID-19. Collaborations with the Mississippi Food Network, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, and the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program provided healthy food boxes containing fresh produce, milk and other dairy products, meat, and seafood during the pandemic.

At the first mobile drive-through food giveaway on May 2, 2020, volunteers with the Lexington Food Pantry served 350 households (about 1,400 people). By June 2020 the number of food boxes provided steadily increased to about 800 per week (about 3,200 people). The program continued through August 2020.

Thanks to these efforts, low-income families were able to get reliable access to nutritious foods during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Michigan WISEWOMAN Provides Access to Fresh Fruit and Veggies for Better Nutrition

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. Eating healthy foods, being active, and getting preventive care like blood pressure checks can lower risk, but for some low-income women these choices aren’t easy. They may live in neighborhoods with little access to fresh produce or few places to be active safely. They may lack health insurance or a regular doctor.

The WISEWOMAN (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for WOMen Across the Nation) program was created to help women understand and reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke by providing services to promote lasting heart-healthy lifestyles. Working with low-income women aged 40 to 64 with little or no health insurance, the program provides heart disease and stroke risk factor screenings and services that promote healthy behaviors.

The Michigan WISEWOMAN Program Market FRESH gives WISEWOMAN participants coupons to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables at more than 55 farmers’ markets across the state and encourages local farmers to bring fresh produce to food deserts, improving access for the entire community.

From 2019 to 2020, Michigan WISEWOMAN partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Aging and Adult Services Agency to continue the Market FRESH Program for WISEWOMAN. Coupon books were provided to about 728 WISEWOMAN participants.

Poor nutrition is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, as well as other major chronic diseases. Helping people get access to fresh produce and learn about the importance of good nutrition can reduce their risk.

Minnesota’s M Health Fairview Screens Cardiac Rehab Patients for Food Insecurity

Poor nutrition is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer. But some populations have less access to nutritious foods because of where they live and what they can afford.

The cardiac rehabilitation program at M Health Fairview, part of the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, focuses on reducing risk factors that could lead to another cardiac event, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress, or a lack of physical activity. The program recognized that food and nutrition security is essential if patients are to change their diet, and started a program to identify and support such patients, with a Minnesota Department of Health grant from the CDC.

To find out if a patient is food insecure, the program now uses the Hunger Vital Sign screening tool, which asks if the patient has been worried that food would run out or not last before they were able to buy more, within the past year.

Patients with food insecurity are referred to Hunger Solutions, a statewide organization in Minnesota that fights hunger. With this referral, recipients can access healthy food resources in their community, or food programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). From October 1, 2019, to July 1, 2021, M Health made 65 referrals to Hunger Solutions. The pilot program for cardiac rehab patients has expanded to eight other program sites.