Just what the doctor ordered

June 2, 2022 – The idea of ​​food as medicine dates back thousands of years, so it makes sense that programs based on the concept already exist. Most fall into two categories: produce prescriptions and medically designed meals. Both are gaining traction as research emerges to support their effectiveness.

produce recipes They are exactly what they sound like: coupons or cards from a health care provider that can be used to buy fresh produce. However, not everyone can get them: they are aimed at people with diet-related conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension, or people who are food insecure, who may be more likely to have those diseases. With better access to nutritional products, advocates say, your need for expensive health care treatments will decrease. While these programs are becoming more widespread, funding is often limited and short-term.

  • The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) is a US Department of Agriculture program to increase the amount of produce low-income people eat. Funded by the 2018 Farm Bill, it provides three types of grants for local groups to explore possibilities. One of the three: produce recipes. The goal of these grants is to reduce visits to doctors and reduce health care costs. GusNIP product prescription trials are scheduled to run through 2023 in 19 states. Click here for more information on existing programs.
  • Thirty-eight states already have some type of prescription produce program, according to the National Produce Prescription Collaborative, a coalition of professionals, researchers and advocates.
  • Health care groups are also getting on board with this idea. In Pennsylvania, Geisinger has “fresh food pharmacy” centers in three hospitals. They provide food specifically to people with diabetes. And in Southern California, Kaiser Permanente is recruiting 400 diabetes patients for a randomized controlled trial.
  • On the retail side, product recipes are becoming so common that the National Association of Grocers has created a website to help stores manage them.
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medically adapted meals The programs provide prepared, ready-to-eat meals to patients who live at home but are too ill to cook for themselves. The “tailor-made” part is done by a registered dietitian nutritionist, who creates an eating plan based on the specific needs of each patient. The plans are designed to improve health, lower the cost of care and make patients feel good.

  • Eight states, including New York and California, already cover medically adapted meals for Medicaid patients in some circumstances.
  • The Food Is Medicine Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations that focuses on medical food and nutrition, has two dozen ongoing studies across the country looking at the effects of medically engineered foods.
  • In September, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, and several cosponsors introduced the Medically Adapted Home-Delivered Meals Pilot Demonstration Act of 2021. It requires a 3-year pilot program in which members of Medicare recently hospitalized with conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, and kidney disease receive medically designed meals.
  • In the private sector, several companies are developing programs. For example, epicurean provides chef-prepared media that follows the low-FODMAP diet, which reduces certain types of carbohydrates that are difficult for people to digest, and gluten-free meals. They work with the Mount Sinai Health System, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and other health care facilities. And the California-based prepared meals company each tablewhich theNew York Times Dubbed “the Amazon of quinoa bowls,” it’s launching its own medically engineered meal program.