New grant program to promote hunger-health connection

January 8, 2016
Screening for SNAP eligibility. Photo courtesy of the USDA.

By Cynthia Woodside, Bread for the World Institute

Bread members and supporters know that public policy change takes time. As people working to end something as large and complex as hunger, we make a virtue of necessities such as persistence and patience.

But progress sometimes comes sooner rather than later. News of a new grant program was released during the first week in January that will add significant knowledge to current research about the hunger-health connection. The grants will test whether addressing patients’ nutritional and social needs improves their health and lowers healthcare costs.

The announcement comes right on the heels of the release of Bread for the World Institute’s 2016 Hunger Report, The Nourishing Effect: Ending Hunger, Improving Health, Reducing Inequality. The report identifies the costly consequences of hunger and food insecurity for human health and for healthcare costs. It includes a study that, using very conservative figures, puts the cost of hunger for the U.S. healthcare system at $160 billion a year.

The new grant program also was launched soon after Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann highlighted the connection between hunger/food insecurity and health to officials in the Obama administration and urged the administration to address it more fully.

Food insecurity – defined as being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle – is associated with higher rates of asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other physical and mental health problems. One study found that food insecurity increases – by nearly 50 percent – the chances that a person will become a high-cost user of healthcare services within five years. And sadly, food insecurity in childhood is a predictor of chronic illness in adulthood.

Under the newly-announced grants, named the Accountable Health Communities Model, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will award up to $157 million over five years to assess the most effective ways to bridge clinical care with social services. The grant awardees, or “bridge organizations,” will oversee the screening of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries for food insecurity, housing instability, utility needs, interpersonal violence, and transportation limitations, and then help them connect with and navigate the appropriate community-based services.   

The grant program will seek to determine which model of bridging clinical care with social services is most effective in improving people’s health and reducing total healthcare costs, visits to emergency rooms, and readmissions to hospitals.

Eligible grant applicants include community-based organizations, healthcare provider practices, hospitals and health systems, institutions of higher education, local government entities, tribal organizations, and for-profit and not-for-profit local and national entities. Up to 44 grants will be awarded. To be awarded a grant, applicants must partner with at least one state Medicaid agency, one hospital, one provider of primary care services, one provider of behavioral health services, and one community service provider equipped to address the health-related social needs identified through the screenings.

Letters of intent to apply are due to CMS by February 8, 2016; applications are due no later than March 31, 2016. For additional information, see here.   

Cynthia Woodside is a senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute

from our Resource Library

For Education

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers

    In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.

  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...


Changing Climate, Changing Farmers

February 7, 2017


April 10, 2018

The Jobs Challenge

From the Blog