Food is Medicine describes the provision of nutritious food tailored to the medical needs of an individual who lives with one or more health conditions likely to be affected by diet, such as diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and HIV. In a small but growing number of cases in Massachusetts and across the country, Food is Medicine interventions are becoming integrated into holistic, patient-centered models of care for individuals with complex chronic illnesses. These interventions may include, for example:
- Medically tailored meals (delivered to the home, or picked up by the individual at an emergency food site)
- Medically tailored grocery bags or food packages
- Prescriptions or referrals for CSAs or produce
Emerging research overwhelmingly suggests that connecting people with complex health conditions to Food is Medicine interventions is an effective and low-cost way to improve health outcomes, decrease utilization of expensive health services, and enhance quality of life for these individuals, who are often socially, as well as medically vulnerable.
While Massachusetts has an impressive number of pioneering programs and providers that are working together in innovative ways to ensure that people living with serious illness have the specific nutrition they need to heal, and ultimately, to thrive, these interventions are not evenly available across the state, leaving out many individuals who could benefit significantly from these services.