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1/29/22blog post

Dayton Children's innovative "Food Pharm" address food insecurity

poverty affects children's health and wellness, but the Food Pharm aims to help

food in·se·cu·ri·ty  (noun)
  1. The inability to provide enough food for a healthy and active lifestyle for all household members 

  2. Disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money or other resources.  

Food insecurity is a side effect of poverty. During Poverty Awareness Month, we’re starting the conversation and raising awareness of how poverty affects people more deeply than just not having money in their pockets.

According to the American Psychological Association children who don't have proper nutrition, are more likely to be faced with:

  • increased hospitalizations
  •  poor health
  • developmental risk and behavior problems (primarily aggression, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder)  

These health issues can turn into a long-term life of struggle for some children. Emily Callen, Community Food Equity manager and manger of the Food Pharm shares how the program provides needed relief for families in our community. 

Prescribing health and wellness 

In the quest to provide optimal health to all children in our area and beyond, Dayton Children’s has partnered with the Dayton Foodbank for the Food Pharm program. The target group is Dayton Children’s patient families who are not already receiving food assistance.  The food box is meant to reduce stress by providing emergency assistance to families while they're getting connected to long-term resources. 

The Food Pharm is not meant to be a long-term solution to food insecurity. But, it does make sure families have the nutrients they need to continue to raise healthy children while they are waiting to officially be connected with the food assistance programs and other available resources.  

How does the Food Pharm work?  

During a patient visit or a clinic visit, families are screened by Dayton Children’s physicians and clinical experts for food insecurity. They're asked questions like: 

  • How many places has the family lived in the last 12 months? 

  • How many times in the last year was the parent or guardian worried that food would run out before they got the money to buy more?  

  • How reliable is the transportation the family has? 

  • How difficult is it for the parent or guardian to pay basic bills? 

If the family is marked positive for food insecurity needs, they are told about the Family Resource Connection at Dayton Children’s Child Health Pavillion and offered resources for food based on their zip code.  

If a family was screened and determined to be positive for food insecurity, but didn’t visit the Family Resource Connection, they receive a follow-up call to see if they’d like to be connected to resources. Unfortunately, some families are afraid of answering the screening questions truthfully. They may believe that they will be turned into authorities for not being able to provide for their children. Dayton Children’s is working to build trust with these families. It is a tragedy when children do not get the nutrition they desperately need because of fear and mistrust.  

A typical “prescription” food box includes a 3-day supply of food that families can turn into a meal- not just snacks. The items you will find in one food box are: 

  • Whole grain foods 

  • Proteins  

  • Low-sodium vegetables  

  • Sauces for preparing pasta 

  • Canned applesauce and fruits 

  • Freeze-dried fruit  

  • Shelf-stable milk 

  • Peanut butter & jelly 

  • Written information with more resources  

Experiencing hunger : an exercise to understand the reality of food insecurity

The food assistance programs that families are usually connected to include SNAP and WIC. But even having access to these resources can be tough for families.

Imagine having to create multiple, balanced and healthy meals for your family on a limited budget every day. Food Pharm manager, Emily Callen uses the following exercise to better demonstrate the reality of experiencing food insecurity.  


  1. The average food stamp budget is $4 per person, per day. Using a sheet of paper, imagine you have a family of 4.   

  2. Using the “choose my plate” guide, plan 


  • 3 balanced meals 

  • For a family of 4 

  • Not exceeding $16    

  1. Repeat this 7 times (once for every day of the week), or until you’ve run out of ideas.  

  2. Take a look at the meal plan you have prepared. Reflect on what the challenges you had while creating the meal plan. Are you repeating a lot of meals? Are you missing a major food group? Are you facing difficulties considering special dietary restrictions or needs your child may have.  

  3. Journal your findings and consider how you can help families in your community who may face food insecurity.  

Remember, while food insecurity is a side effect of poverty, poverty is not the only indicator or predictor of this serious circumstance. Many families, especially now, are just one missed paycheck or medical emergency away from needing help to feed their children.  

To learn more about the Dayton Children’s Food Pharm, click here.  


community benefit contributions grant application: Q&A

This Q&A session will provide an opportunity for interested parties to learn more about the Dayton Children's community benefit contributions, the request for applications, and grant process.

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