This study assessed findings from a food-insecurity screening of a national sample of Veterans Administration clinics for homeless and formerly homeless veterans. Researchers reviewed results from initial screenings administered at 6 Veterans Administration primary care clinics for the homeless and responses from clinic staff members interviewed about the screening program.
A total of 270 patients were screened. The average age was 53 years, and most were male (93.1%). Screening showed a high prevalence of food insecurity. Of the 270, 48.5% reported they experienced food insecurity in the previous 3 months, 55.0% reported averaging 2 meals a day, and 27.3% averaged 1 meal a day. Eighty-seven percent prepared their own meals, relying on food they bought (54.2%), help from friends and family (19.1%), and soup kitchens and food pantries (22%); 47.3% received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps). Additionally, of those who screened positive for food insecurity 19.8% had diabetes or prediabetes, and 43.5% reported hypoglycemia symptoms when without food. Clinic staff members responded positively to the screening program and described it as a good rapport builder with patients.
Integrating screening for food insecurity among patients in clinical settings was well received by both patients and health care providers. Addressing these positive findings of food insecurity requires a multidisciplinary health care approach.