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New insights into the power of food as medicine

July 02, 2024

You might be surprised to learn that diabetes costs the nation $413 billion each year. Or that over 44 million Americans face food insecurity every day, and 23 million Americans live in “food deserts,” places that have limited access to affordable, nutritious food.

Advocating for food as medicine

At the end of May, I joined other national leaders in Washington, D.C., at the Food as Medicine Strategy Summit hosted by the Validation Institute and part of the broader Thinc360 Conference.  It was a great opportunity to hear from leaders in the Food As Medicine movement, learn about innovation and share many conversations with colleagues and new acquaintances. We discussed how food delivery programs improve health outcomes for diverse populations in America and discussed how healthcare is evolving to place more emphasis on health related social needs (HRSNs).

Highlights from the event include:

  • Hearing from Dr. Dariush Mozafarian from Tufts about nutrition’s impact on health, policy opportunities and research related to ultra-processed food.  I really liked hearing that skipping dinner rolls and adding ice cream to your meal might not be a bad idea.  Who wouldn’t like a small scoop or two now that it’s officially summer!
  • Learning more about the unique 1115 demonstration here in my own state of Oregon, and its focus on transitional populations, including youth.  I was really moved by the dedication described by Julie Reeder from the Oregon Health Authority, of the team that worked together for 7 months to design the program to ensure that support will go to those who need it most and that services will be trauma-informed to align with the experiences of the people served.
  • Nodding in agreement when Kate Goodrich, CEO of Humana, spoke about the importance of food as medicine and its integration into healthcare.  She also described how Humana was pushing more of this kind of care to providers and that Centerwell, a Humana-owned provider, is looking at doing more with food as medicine.

Updated food as medicine white paper

Related to these highlights, we’ve just released a new edition of our popular white paper The Power of Food as Medicine: What Health Care is Doing and What is Working. There’s new research demonstrating how quality nutrition and medically tailored meals can improve health outcomes and lower costs, and we felt it was important to update this resource and share it widely.

In addition to the history of food as medicine and current policy perspectives on nutrition security, the white paper features new data and case studies. It’s an excellent resource for health plans, area agencies on aging, government entities, public and private organizations, even individuals interested in food as medicine and nutrition.

Making the case

Case studies in the white paper highlight the work underway around the country to improve nutrition security, especially for vulnerable populations with chronic medical conditions. Discover how health plans have used home-delivered meals to:

  • Decrease total cost of care for some diabetes patients by 32%
  • Reduce hospital readmission rates by 64% for patients with heart disease or chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD)
  • Improve hospital readmission rates

A case study conducted by California-based Inland Empire Health Plan who partnered with Mom’s Meals® is particularly interesting. In the pilot study, 93 participants with chronic heart failure received medically tailored meals and easy access to other health-related tools for six months. A recent reanalysis of the study results from the first six months of the program to 12 months after the program ended showed excellent results:

  • 41% reduction in hospitalizations
  • 21% reduction in total cost of care
  • Patients self-report better access to healthy food and lower salt consumption

There’s much more in the white paper.

Continuing our 25-year commitment

As Mom’s Meals celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, our mission to improve life through better nutrition at home is stronger than ever. Our company is rooted in our founders’ original commitment to give their own family members convenient access to nutritious food so they could age in place and their kids could get the nutrition they needed while at college. 

Beyond providing medically tailored, home-delivered meals to millions of clients around the nation every year, Mom’s Meals is also a thought leader in food as medicine and aging in place services. We participate in meal delivery studies with our partners, we’re passionate about health advocacy, and share our expertise and resources to advance the food as medicine movement.

Let’s talk if you want to discuss the power of food as medicine and how it can work for your plan members or patients. Don’t forget to download our food as medicine white paper. There’s also an informative video to watch. Whether you’re in health care, the nutrition industry, public health — or you just have a loved one who needs nutrition support — let’s recognize that access to good nutrition is fundamental and work together to make it a reality for everyone.