Lurie Children’s Hospital has launched a home food delivery program for patients who might otherwise go hungry.
The hospital received a $150,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation to provide “reliable access to healthy food for over 100 families.”
The program expands on an earlier hospital’s initiative to address food insecurity; two years ago, the hospital opened Chicago’s first onsite food pantry in a pediatric clinic.
“Food insecurity is a significant barrier to children’s health,” said Dr. Adam Becker, executive director of childhood obesity prevention program Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, in a hospital news release. “We hope to reduce the burden on vulnerable families, especially those who are caring for children with medical complexity.”
Mary Kate Daly, vice president of Lurie Children’s Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities, said the grant will pay not only for food, but also for social workers and program staff.
Groceries being delivered to the families will come from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Daly said.
“We want to make sure all this food is healthy so it improves the health of the kids who are still recovering from being at our hospital,” Daly said.
Families will be screened by social workers to determine eligibility for the food deliveries — for instance, by asking whether in the past 12 months the family worried that their food would run out before they could afford to buy more.
Currently, Daly said families are being screened in three Lurie clinics - one for patients with muscular dystrophy, a kidney transplant center and a primary care facility in Uptown.
Although the program was launched to help families during the pandemic, Daly said the idea was in the works before the coronavirus, and she sees it continuing after.
Food insecurity “was a major priority for a lot of the families that we care for,” she said. “So this will certainly go on.”