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King County Healthcare and Food Insecurity Learning Network

King County Healthcare and
Food Insecurity Learning Network

Who we are

Who we are

The King County Healthcare and Food Insecurity Learning Network exists to unite partners in order to eliminate food insecurity and improve health.

The Learning Network is made up of stakeholders across multiple sectors—including healthcare providers, retailers, advocates, food distributors, educators, navigators, program managers, and funders--who come together to learn from each other about strategies to eliminate food insecurity and improve health in our communities. Public Health — Seattle & King County organizes funding, leadership, and facilitation for the Learning Network.

Join the Learning Network

  • Aging and Disability Services
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association
  • Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition
  • Fresh Bucks Program
  • Food Innovation Network
  • Food Lifeline
  • HealthierHere
  • International Rescue Council
  • Living Well Kent
  • Neighborhood Farmers Markets
  • Northwest Harvest
  • PCC Natural Markets
  • Seattle Foundation
  • Solid Ground
  • Somali American Grocers Association
  • South King County Food Coalition
  • University District Food Bank
  • UW Center Public Health Nutrition
  • WA State Department of Health
  • Washington Food Coalition
  • Washington State Farmers Market Association
  • WithinReach


  • Strong facilitation by a lead organization (Public Health — Seattle & King County) that provides clear roles and responsibilities, appropriate delegation, good communication, and transparency.

  • Clearly defined and shared purpose and goals with an iterative action plan with measurable outcomes.

  • Funding for staffing, facilitation, community participation, projects, and data collection.

  • Commitment from diverse partners who are open to hearing diverse perspectives.


The Learning Network works to:

Identify a food access resource guide for providers and clients

Secure sustainable funding for the network and programming

Support food insecurity screening integration in healthcare settings

Advocate for policy and systems change to improve food security

Elevate community voices

Coordinate food insecurity data sharing

Food Insecurity Screening Community of Practice

Food Insecurity Screening Community of Practice

The Food Insecurity Screening Community of Practice is a group of healthcare providers within the Learning Network and its purpose is to end hunger by improving and developing interventions in healthcare facilities to connect patients to food resources.

The Community of Practice includes a cohort of patients who have experience with food insecurity who will help evaluate how the food resources and services are working for them.

  • Develop a universal screening tool and process – including translation, customizable to patient needs, staffing and electronic health records.
  • Create a comfortable environment - develop education language for patients about and create an educational poster.
  • Strengthen connections to food resources – enhance healthcare staff knowledge and skills to connect patients to food resources.
  • Develop a training to educate healthcare staff – on universal screening and connection to food resources.
  • Share this work – via social media, end report, and meetings with decision makers. Collect and share client stories.
  • Country Doctor Community Health Centers
  • Harborview Medical Center
  • International Community Health Services
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Multicare Health System
  • Odessa Brown Children's Clinic
  • Public Health — Seattle & King County
  • SeaMar Community Health Centers
  • Seattle Children's Hospital
  • Veteran's Affairs Hospital

What's happened

On March 7, 2018, 84 stakeholders gathered at Seattle City Hall for the first-ever King County Healthcare & Food Insecurity Learning Network meeting. The goals for this first meeting were to:

  1. gauge interest in and explore the value of forming a Learning Network and
  2. establish a preliminary purpose and organizational structure of a Learning Network.

Since this initial meeting, the Learning Network has worked together to establish the Learning Network's purpose and organizational structure, collect and review screening tools and referral pathways to food resources, and exchange information about what healthcare systems in King County are doing to address food insecurity.

What's next

  • Engaging healthcare decision-makers through our Food Insecurity Screening Community of Practice as member health systems enhance their screening and connection processes

  • Involving those who have experienced food insecurity by funding a cohort of patient advisors to contribute as active members of the Food Insecurity Screening Community of Practice

Health systems across King County connect patients to national, local, and community level food resources. In 2018, Public Health — Seattle & King County interviewed representatives from 10 healthcare systems to find out more about their food insecurity screening and referral processes, the barriers they have encountered thus far, and what qualities they would like to see in a screening tool.

Food insecurity screening

Most of the healthcare systems that we interviewed screened all patients using Hunger Vital Sign plus additional questions developed internally. However, interviewees often reported that their screening process lacked consistency. Ideal qualities for a screening tool included: short length, easy to use and customize, a format that facilitated data sharing, and questions that took a broad/holistic approach to food insecurity.

Documenting food insecurity

Almost all of the health systems interviewed reported that at least some food insecurity data is documented, either in electronic health records or paper forms. About half of the interviewees reported using multiple forms of documentation.

Staffing for screening and referrals

The staff person who performed screening varied, with about half of the sites reporting that multiple staff positions (primarily registered dietitians, social workers, or community resource specialists) or the patients themselves performed the screening. Lack of time or designated staffing was the most frequently reported barrier to screening and referrals.

Summary of screening and connection pathways in King County (PDF)

See detailed PDF summaries of our program spotlights below:

Tools and resources

Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network (SIREN)

Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network (SIREN)

Evidence library, screening tools, and other resources for social needs screening in clinical settings

Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network (SIREN)

WithinReach Resource Finder

Multi-language hotline and web-based resource for finding programs and services in Washington state, based on the patient's address.

Hunger Vital Signs questionnaires

Hunger Vital Sign™

The Hunger Vital Sign identifies households as being at-risk for food insecurity if they answer that either or both two statements is ‘often true’ or ‘sometimes true’ (vs. ‘never true’). Download the questionnaires in the following languages:

Worried about enough food?

Use this poster in your clinic or health care setting to let clients know that they can ask their provider about food resources. Available in the following languages:

Worried about enough food? We can help.