Deepak Palakshappa became a pediatrician to give poor kids access to good medical care. Still, back in his residency days, the now-associate professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem was shocked to discover that a patient caring for two young grandchildren was food insecure. “Our clinic had set up one of those food drive boxes, and near the end of a visit, she asked if she could have any of the cans because she didn’t have food for the holidays,” he recalls.
Thirteen years later, Palakshappa’s clinic team now asks two simple questions of every patient to ascertain whether they’ll run out of food in a given month. But there are some critical questions they don’t ask: Do you drink your tap water? Is it potable and ample? Can you cook food with it, and use it to mix infant formula and cereal? Such questions could uncover some of the millions of Americans who are water insecure—a circumstance directly connected to food insecurity.