Talking to Patients About Food Insecurity

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Food insecurity is highly prevalent in the United States. Even in the best of times, some 10% of the U.S. population self-reports food insecurity in the U.S. annual census instrument, and some 23.3 million Americans use the community-based emergency food system. Unemployed or underemployed individuals, the elderly, single parents, substance abusers, and uninsured or underinsured individuals with medical illnesses are at increased risk for food insecurity. This article discusses clinical approaches to food-insecure individuals. Measurement tools developed to define and document the extent of hunger and food insecurity in the U.S. population are presented as templates for discussion between doctor or dietitian and patient. Information is provided to help clinicians guide patients with food insecurity to appropriate resources.

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