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Food is Medicine Approach Behind New Pilot Bill

Originally published October 23, 2019 by State House News. Written by Colin A. Young.

Lawmakers are expected to announce legislation Wednesday night to create a pilot program to determine the effectiveness of medically-tailored meals and their health benefits for chronically-ill MassHealth enrollees.

Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Denise Garlick recently filed a bill (SD 2605) that would create the “Food and Health Pilot Program,” which supporters said is the first program of its kind in the country. The bill is expected to be detailed Wednesday night at the annual Food is Medicine Symposium at Harvard Law School.

The Food is Medicine State Plan, released in June by the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School and service provider Community Servings, focused on nutrition’s link to chronic diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and the notion that food can act as medicine when meals are tailored to meet the specific needs of people living with or at risk for certain serious health conditions.

The report said there are 736 food pantries, meal programs, food rescue organizations and produce voucher programs in Massachusetts, but only 63 of them work with health care providers or tailor meals to meet specific medical needs.

Access to food as medicine programs remains limited in the state and across the country, the report found. But as consumers think more about the food they eat and as Massachusetts shifts its Medicaid program into an accountable care organization model, the report said the time is now to integrate food and medicine. – Colin A. Young/SHNS |