On the SDOH Front: When School’s Out, Hunger’s In

Forget the gags about hospital food, a Philadelphia program fills kids up when school breakfasts and lunches are unavailable.

If you live in the Philadelphia area and have children who ate reduce-priced or free meals at school, mark this date: June 10. That’s when a program offered by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia starts serving food to children who often go hungry in the summer months. It’s called Complete Eats, and Danielle Cullen, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, opines in the Philadelphia Inquirer that it hits the spot.

Complete Eats is another attempt by the health care system to address the social determinants of health, and it’s needed, writes Cullen. “As a pediatrician in the emergency department, I see this hunger present as belly pain quickly cured by a sandwich; poorly controlled diabetes because of inexpensive calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food; and in severe cases, even seizures in babies because of watered-down formula,” Cullen writes.

The supply is there, thanks to food supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but demand lags mostly because word hasn’t widely gotten out, writes Cullen. Few families who could benefit do so.

“Although there are more than 1,000 of these summer meal sites in Philadelphia, only one in seven children who receives free or reduced-price school meals also participate in summer meal programs,” she writes.

Complete Eats food is supplied at Children’s Hospital which, Cullen writes, caregivers consider a good location for the program.