Food as Medicine: The Intersection of Hunger and Health” was the focus of the seventh annual Hunger Action Summit at Santa Clara University on January 30, 2015. Experts from across the country came together to present current food and health propositions to a crowd of over 200 guests. Focusing on the theme, "food as medicine" brought fervent interest from the crowd.
For the first time in history, the current generation is no longer expected to outlive their parents generation, as more and more Americans are suffering from diet-related diseases. Our population has presented the country with a paradox of having enough calories to completely satiate our population, but individuals are still suffering from malnutrition. In order to address this paradox, the "food as medicine" concept was born.
In order to address the concept, the summit was arranged to present the problems society is currently facing, what is currently being done to address these problems, and what future possibilities are in the works. Dr. Drew Starbird, Dean of Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business, spoke first and addressed the current need for food within Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. "The Hunger Index improved slightly in both counties, reflecting improved economic conditions and increased support from food-assistance providers like Second Harvest," said Starbird.
CEO of SHFB, Kathy Jackson, offered approaches to minimizing hunger and reducing the stress on food distribution organizations such as SHFB. Jackson believes a possible solution may be dual enrollment in MediCal and CalFresh programs, as those who are chronically ill are often found at food pantries, and those who are chronically hungry are commonly found at hospitals. As Jackson mentions, "poverty, hunger, and diet-fueled health disparities are all tied together."
The link between health and hunger was further validated by Dr. Hilary Seligman, associate professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Seligman's talk focused on the link between diabetes and food insecurity, as being food insecure increases the chances of acquiring diabetes.
Lastly, Robert Greenwald, J.D., Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, spoke on his most recent research titled, Food as Medicine: The Case for Insurance Coverage for Medically-Tailored Food Under the Affordable Care Act. According to Greenwald's presentation, "food is an effective component of ameliorative health care for the acute and chronically ill, considering it is both cost effective and improves overall patient health status."
The 2015 Hunger Action Summit proved to be a culmination of all the bright ideas, future propositions and current factors working towards solving hunger and diet-related health issues. The day’s presentations challenged the audience to think with a different perspective, step outside their comfort zone, and look into options they may have never thought feasible.
To view the program and watch a video of the event, click here.