In her clinic, kids’ food insecurity is a daily issue
“Do you worry that food will run out before your family gets money to buy more?”
“Are there times that food does run out, and your family does not have money to get more?”
While those are not questions that I was taught to ask in medical school, they are questions I now ask during clinic visits (“US orders state to fix food stamp procedures”). Why? In a study evaluating social needs among patients in the adolescent clinic where I work, 30 percent reported that they are food insecure.
This means that one-third of our teenage patients have difficulty getting a well-balanced diet. They worry about running out of food. They skip meals and limit what they eat in order to stretch the amount of food available to them. They eat high-calorie, low-cost foods to feel full.
These numbers are not surprising. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 19.5 percent of US households with children in 2013 were food insecure.
Requiring food stamp cards to have photos creates an unnecessary barrier for families and individuals. Food is a basic need, and consistent and reliable access to nutritious food is required for a healthy life.
Massachusetts should eliminate the photo requirement on Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. Our children and families deserve better.
The writer is a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.