As part of our effort to combat food insecurity, SNAP-Ed staff at Public Health Seattle and King County identified the need for coordination and collaboration across health systems as well as community partners that offer healthy, affordable options. This need resonated with others community advocates, and on March 7, 2018, 84 stakeholders gathered at Seattle City Hall for the first ever King County Healthcare Food Insecurity Learning Network Meeting. Stakeholders represented diverse sectors, including healthcare providers, retailers, advocates, food distributors, educators, evaluators, navigators, program managers and funders. One attendee from the American Cancer Society commented, “The meeting today was awesome. I love the way we had so many opportunities to interact with others and learn what is going on in the community. You did a fantastic job in planning and executing. I look forward to seeing what main priorities will develop out of the core group.” Attendees helped define the purpose and values of the network, and created a statement of purpose: to unite and learn in order to eliminate food insecurity to improve health.
Members identified six focus areas:
- Create a Food Access Resource Guide for providers and clients
- Secure sustainable funding for the network and programming
- Integrate food insecurity screening into healthcare
- Advocate for policy and systems change to improve food security
- Involve people who experience food insecurity
- Coordinate food insecurity data sharing
The Learning Network currently consists of 130 members representing 58 multi-sector organizations. Four active teams, each led by a community partner, are implementing work plans for the first four ”big idea” focus areas. Each team has developed its own purpose statement, a list of goals and action items for the coming year.
As the network grows, members hope that more health systems in King County will incorporate food insecurity screenings into their clinical practice and more people who are experiencing food insecurity will be connected to food resources.