December 2015 Newsletter

I hope this message finds you well and that you’re able to pace yourself through this busy season that brings demands on both personal and professional time. It has certainly been a busy two months since The Root Cause Coalition launched in mid-October; but we are extremely grateful for the wide and sincere interest from so many across the healthcare industry, and related organizations, who have expressed interest in adding their voice to our work.

At this time of year, the need to address hunger and help those in need is a common theme. But our work extends beyond the holidays – because hunger knows no season. It knows no age, race, creed or culture. Indeed, basic needs can become critical issues in the blink of an eye. But at the Coalition, we refuse to blink and commit every season and all of our resources to connecting the points of how, why, when and where we can help people gain access and education to address their most basic needs so that we can all attain our best self.

My wish for you this season is the knowledge that you matter, every day of every year. Your commitment to helping others is a bright light that shines for all and resonates far beyond the holiday.

Wishing you peace, health and the comfort of all the basics in the New Year,

Barbara J. Petee
Executive Director
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The Root Cause Coalition in the News

“Some Hospitals Prescribe Food, Take Other Steps to Fight Food Insecurity” – Click here for U.S. News and World Report’s recent look at innovative healthcare programs, The Root Cause Coalition and our founding partners – the AARP Foundation and ProMedica.

“Health Systems Hope Social Initiatives will Produce Better Health Outcomes and Lower Costs” Click here for Modern Healthcare’s article highlighting the work of The Root Cause Coalition.

Research Highlights

When addressing the problem of food insecurity, it’s essential to look at not only the availability of food, but also how people are able to access existing resources. The USDA researched how food assistance program participants and other low-income households are able, or unable, to actually acquire healthy and affordable food. They found that the ownership of a vehicle, as well as the proximity and type of stores, played a significant role in shopping patterns.

Food insecurity has many detrimental physical effects, one of which is an association with higher body mass index (BMI). The CDC recently released a longitudinal study that evaluated the association between food insecurity and BMI over time. After following participants for over three years, results showed that food insecurity is associated with an increase in BMI and skills such as portion control and budgeting were associated with healthier outcomes for food secure individuals.

The health impact of food insecurity is not limited to physical effects, but mental and emotional effects as well. A study released last month by the CDC examined how psychological distress is associated with food insecurity, focusing specifically on low-income Hispanic adults. The results of this study revealed that food insecurity was significantly associated with serious psychological distress, and the authors suggest a number of community solutions for this important problem.

Making the Medical Connection

Healthy Holiday Giving
By Chloe Plummer, MS, RD, LD, Clinical Dietitian, ProMedica

The holiday season is one time during the year when we¹re often reminded about the importance of giving to others in need. During the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, many of the 17.5 million U.S. households struggling with food insecurity in the United States turn to food pantries to help bridge the gap in their nutrition needs. Unfortunately, food pantry donations commonly consist of highly processed foods that are overflowing with sugar, fat, and salt. These unhealthy foods may help to prevent physical hunger in the short-term, but they can also contribute to chronic diseases in the long-term. If we continue to address hunger without also addressing health, then we are not helping to support wellness in our communities.
So what can you do to help? As a community member providing donations, consider the health of the individuals who will receive your food, and think about whether you would serve the same food to your family. As an organization or school having a food drive, promote healthy messages and encourage the donation of a few healthy staples throughout the drive. As a pantry or food bank, encourage donors to donate healthy food choices. Provide potential donors with a list of healthy items that you are in need of, and commit to purchasing healthier food with monetary donations.
Examples of healthy donations include fruit canned in its own juice or with no sugar added, low-sodium canned vegetables, whole grain pasta or rice, oats, low-sodium canned or dried beans, canned fish or chicken, low-sugar cereal, and shelf-stable milk. If you¹re interested in donating perishable items, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, meats, or frozen foods, check with the pantry or food bank first to make sure they have the storage space for your donation.

For more information about healthy food choices, visit or the Healthy Food Bank Hub.

The Root Cause Coalition newsletter is published monthly to provide updates on our work in addressing the social determinants of health, with specific emphasis on hunger as a public health issue, and our work on improving the health status of individuals and communities. To join our growing community, or if you would like more information, please be sure to visit our website at or contact us at [email protected] or [email protected].