Emma Walsh-Alker, a summer intern at FRAC and student at Haverford College, interviewed Dr. Wilder about her work to help more family practitioners address food insecurity. Dr. Wilder, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, recently joined a healthcare start-up company in New York City. She is the former Director of Quality Improvement/Medical Director at the William F. Ryan Community Health Center in New York and a consultant to the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Dr. Wilder, a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), answered a few questions about how she got interested in addressing the social determinants of health — including food security — that impact her patients’ health and well-being, and how she is advocating to help more AAFP members address food insecurity.
How did you become invested in addressing hunger among your patients?
I’ve always been invested in health and wellness, and I believe in the importance of the social determinants of health. The last stop is the doctor’s office, so it’s important to investigate and help improve factors that have a direct impact on people’s lives, including nutrition. I view food as medicine, so access to quality food is crucial to help patients improve their health as well as combat obesity and other illnesses.
Aside from food insecurity, what other food issues affect your patients?
In addition to not having enough money to purchase food, many of my patients live in areas that lack healthy, affordable food. I’ve partnered with supermarkets to give the community information about healthy food and obesity as well as stress the importance of making healthy food accessible by lowering prices and providing coupons. I enjoy working with local organizations at the community level in addition to my previous work at the clinic.
Can you speak to the intersection of poverty and nutrition?
A lack of economic resources and poor nutrition too often go hand in hand. Fortunately, there are resources available. SNAP is critical for making sure people have enough food to get through the month. Many people would literally not be able to eat without it, especially when their money is going towards other things, such as rent and medicine. Often, even SNAP isn’t enough, which is why it’s important for people to be able to access additional food programs, such as partnerships with farmers’ markets or Meals on Wheels. Advocacy is very important for the continuation of these vital programs.
You recently worked to get your New York State AAFP Chapter to pass a resolution to address food insecurity. How did you make that happen?
I’m very grateful to FRAC for providing background information and helping me draft the resolution and connecting me to American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s HealthWatch. To build support for the resolution, I showed it to other state AAFP chapters and members on the AAFP Public Health Commission to get feedback. I also recruited New York State members to write testimonies for the national resolution. It’s exciting that these efforts also helped other groups within the National AAFP to adopt a similar resolution. The next stop is the National AAFP Congress of Delegates where we will advocate for national passage of a food security resolution.