The Problem

Can the Medical Community augment the distribution of available food to the "food insecure" children of Fairfax County?

There was recognition by a practicing pediatrician that there was a community need for food (literally 28% of the students in the Fairfax County Public School System of 180,000 students were in "reduced cost/ free lunch and breakfast programs" , large quantities of "free" food available (Capital Area Food Banks collaborative) and yet a public "sense" that many in need were not taking advantages of the food available (under various programs a family of 4 could avail themselves of 18 weekly allotments of approximately 100 pounds/week of free food in each calendar year....USDA (12 times) and Emergency food (6 times) programs.

The Obvious Questions

  • Why was there underutilization of the resources readily available to residents despite large well-funded FAIRFAX County set of social service safety net programs.

Our Answer

Burke Pediatrics, LLC and "Food for Others" (a large local food pantry) under the leadership of Fredric Garner, M.D., F.A.A.P. and Annie Turner (Director of Food for Others) initiated a collaborative pilot project. It's purpose was to assess a possible role of a "pediatric community office practice" as an INTERMEDIARY resource to identify, inform and refer via "medical prescription" "food insecure families to the abundance of free food available in Fairfax County. Collaborating in the design, development and implementation of the pilot project were representatives of the many County resources: Fairfax County Government, Fairfax County Food Council, Fairfax County School System and Fairfax County Health Dept, and Managed Care Organization. With indirect support from the Virginia Dept of Medical Assistant Services and utilizing national standard of Screening (the Hunger Vital Signs), a group of 14 met monthly voluntarily for 1 year. Their purpose was to inform, assess and develop a program to screen and refer patients from a private practice to a "food pharmacy" to supplement the identified food needs of school children during the summer recess of July and August when school and "breakfast/ lunch" programs were not operational.

We were successful in feeding 41 families (7000 pounds of food distributed) of 200 identified.


Each medical practice should consider incorporating this procedure in the daily office practice of medicine.

  • We now believe this pilot program can be easily and economically adopted and adapted to any medical practice in any area of the country where there is an existing food pantry.
  • Additionally, the provision of medical screening for food insecurity can be reimbursed. (96160; Dx: Z13.21)

In the second year we expanded the program concept to take full advantage of the year around availability of food for "food insecure families" as well as attempted to recruit other area medical practices to initiate a program of identification and "prescribing" food.

We were again successful: 13 practices agreed to participate and 17,000 pounds of food was distributed.

The Future

Expand statewide and nationwide via pediatric practices collaboration with local community resources utilizing "internet" website teaching resources: