As the coronavirus pandemic forces so many to reckon with growing food insecurity and increased health challenges, the Building Wealth and Health Network program of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities is reducing food insecurity and improving mental health – without distributing any food or medicine. How? By focusing on group experiences that promote healing and help people save money and take control over their own finances.
Parents of young children, who completed the Center’s 16-session, trauma-informed program, are 55 percent less likely to experience household food insecurity than those who did not complete the program, known as “The Network.” The study included 372 Philadelphia parents of children under six years old enrolled in the four-to-eight-week-long program.
In addition to the course, all participants were either receiving cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and/or support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
At present, one in five United States households is currently experiences food insecurity, according to an April Brookings report, with that number expected to increase due to COVID-19.
“As the coronavirus ravages communities across the United States, a failure to stop the spread is causing unprecedented amounts of food insecurity,” said senior author Mariana Chilton, PhD, a professor of Health Management and Policy and director of Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “This pandemic continues to expose how fundamentally broken our country’s social support systems are and how poorly some of our most vulnerable citizens are often treated. As it becomes clearer that public officials are not rapidly improving basic income supports for families, our findings suggest innovative ways to increase people’s ability to care for themselves and each other.”
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