Disease & Illness

This State Is Now Prescribing Food As Medicine—And It’s Working

This is such a smart idea. Would you like to see a program like this in your state?

What you choose to eat every day directly impacts your health. You truly are what you eat, and it goes much deeper than whether or not you can fit into those skinny jeans. For people battling chronic illnesses, the right diet can mean the difference between life and death. However, shopping for the right foods and preparing them often takes more energy and money than patients have.

That’s where a new California program comes in. Launched earlier this month, the program recognized the key role diet plays for patients. With support from State Senator Ben Allen, California assembly members Blanca Rubio and Richard Bloom and the Food is Medicine Coalition, the program funds six nonprofit organizations. Together, they will deliver free tailored meals to Medicaid patients whose medical conditions require specific diets.

The six participating non-profit organizations include Project Angel Food, Ceres Community Project, Project Open Hand, Mama’s Kitchen, Health Trust and Food for Thought. Delivering prescribed meals is nothing new. These groups have been doing just that for years. But now their services will be reimbursed as part of the $6 million pilot program.

That money will help feed 1,000 individuals three meals a day for three months. The initial recipients are primarily suffering from congestive heart failure. The meal deliveries will ensure they follow their strict diets.

Philadelphia’s MANNA program is the model for the California program. It demonstrated significantly lower healthcare costs among a small group of chronically ill participants. And just like that program, these meal deliveries are expected to reduce hospital visits and overall healthcare costs for these California recipients.

“We couldn’t be more excited to turn this local success story into a statewide program that will improve the health of those who need it most while reducing costs for taxpayers over the long term,” State Senator Mike McGuire said in a statement. “The bottom line: We believe, over the next three years, we’ll demonstrate enhanced health outcomes for chronically ill Medi-Cal patients and save millions in healthcare costs.”

In fact, this program could inspire healthcare initiatives across the country.

“This pilot program will go a long way to make sure that people who are sick and hungry can get the food that not only keeps them alive, but will help them heal,” said Richard Ayoub, Executive Director, Project Angel Food. “We applaud the State of California for being visionaries.”