Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan

What is the Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan?

The Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan is an initiative that will assess the need for and access to Food is Medicine interventions across the state of Massachusetts. Based upon this assessment, we will develop and publish a report containing concrete strategies that organizations and state agencies can use to improve access to Food is Medicine over time.

What is Food is Medicine, and Why the Need for a Statewide Plan?

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.

Project Goals

Data Gathering and Analysis

Using publicly available data, we will rigorously assess and articulate the need for Food is Medicine interventions and practices across the state by examining community-level burden of chronic and serious illnesses whose trajectory can be mitigated by proper nutrition.

Survey Development

We will develop and administer a survey to health providers, insurers, and food and nutrition service providers to assess the availability of Food is Medicine interventions and practices that facilitate connecting patients to Food is Medicine interventions in the State.

Strategy Development  

We will develop a strategy, which will include metrics to measure progress, to increase the availability of Food is Medicine interventions to meet the level of need throughout the state through replication, expansion, or scaling of successful programs and partnerships, initiation of new efforts, and identification of sustainable funding sources and models.

How Can YOU Get Involved?

Attend Regional Listening Sessions: We will be hosting a series of regional listening sessions throughout the state in the spring/summer of 2018 to hear more about the best practices and challenges you are experiencing in your region as you try to improve access to healthy, medically-appropriate food.

  • We will be posting information and links to RSVP to listening sessions here on the website, starting in January 2018.  So please sign up for our mailing list or check back for more information!

Take Our Survey: Our surveys will be going out to health providers, insurers, and food and nutrition service providers at the start of 2018.  If your organization falls into one of these categories, please make sure to submit a survey response.

About the Organizers

The Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School and Community Servings, a Boston-based not-for-profit food and nutrition program, have worked with local and national partners for five years to develop the evidence and policy base for integrating Food is Medicine interventions into health care delivery and financing. 

Related Publications

To view publications related to Food is Medicine, visit our library here.

Food is Medicine Symposium

View recordings of the most recent Food is Medicine Symposiums.

Thank You to Our Funders

The Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan initiative is made possible through the generous support of our funder, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.