Current statistics estimate 11.8 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during 2017, according to USDA. Food insecurity is the inability or limited access to wholesome foods for a healthy lifestyle. September is “Hunger Action Month” which highlights the issue of food insecurity and hunger across the country.

An emerging approach to fighting hunger is a concept called a “food pharmacy”. Hospitals, clinics and other medical organizations are finding creative ways to help put food on the tables of needy families through special pantries known as Food Pharmacies. Doctors and other health professionals write prescriptions for healthy foods similar to writing out a medication prescription. Once an individual receives their food prescription they can then visit a food pharmacy where they can, at no cost, fill their “food prescription” for vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy foods. By providing these healthy foods through a food pharmacy, individuals receive important nutrients such as fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D, which promote health and help fight disease.

If you can’t connect with a food pharmacy in your area, consider other ways you can support hunger reduction efforts during the month of September.

1) Volunteer at a local pantry or food bank. In Tennessee, where music is king, singer/songwriter Brad Paisley and his wife are helping to open a local free grocery store which will allow families access to healthy foods at no cost.

Southeast Dairy Association - milk

2) Participate in the “10 Gallon Challenge”. According to Feeding America, milk is one of the most requested, yet least donated items in a food bank.  This initiative involves simply purchasing 10 gallons of real cow’s milk and donating them to your local pantry or food bank. This donation provides essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and protein to families in need.

3) Talk with your local doctor, health professional or clinic about resources they have for families needing improved access to food. Encourage medical providers to talk with their patients about ways they can access free or no-cost healthy foods.

4) Share information about Hunger Action Month on Facebook. This simple and free action raises awareness about the importance of addressing hunger and food insecurity in our communities.

Tracy Noerper PhD, RD, LDN is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist in the state of Tennessee. Tracy currently is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Dietetic Internship Director at Lipscomb University. She received her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Abilene Christian University and her master’s degree in Nutrition from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Tracy also received her PhD in Health and Human Performance from MTSU. She has served as president and as a past president of both the Nashville and Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics associations. Her research interests are food security and post-secondary online education. Tracy enjoys being outdoors, spending time with her family, traveling and trying new recipes.