Food as Medicine: Digestible Bites – March 2023

More encouraging news about practical and successful implementations of Food as Medicine comes out every day. 

The shorter version:

  • Good news: An exciting new program involves a debit card that pays for up to $100 a month of fresh produce. Keep reading below to learn more!
  • Some states are rolling out programs where a portion of their Medicaid funds will pay for food programs, including medically tailored meals, groceries and produce prescriptions.
  • Bad news: Of the 41 million Americans who receive SNAP benefits, at the end of the month, it is estimated that 16 million Americans will receive about $90 less a month.
  • Interesting fact: This article highlighted the most amazing fact, which I have yet to get to the bottom of (but will!)… The original Hippocratic Oath contained the following passage: “I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.” Very oddly, that part has been removed and there is no mention of diet in the modern oath. If anyone has any insight into this, please let me know! 

The longer version:

The Fresh Connect debit card lets doctors prescribe free fruits and vegetables

The Fresh Connect program is designed to help prevent and treat disease, particularly for people who may not be able to afford healthy food. This article cites a Tufts University study that found that healthy food prescriptions could be as cost effective as preventative drug treatments for conditions like hypertension or high cholesterol.

In Boston, the Fresh Connect debit card (created by the Boston-based nonprofit About Fresh) works at stores like Stop & Shop. Shoppers bring a full cart of groceries to check out, swipe the Fresh Connect card, and it automatically covers the cost of produce before they pay the rest of the bill. The amount available varies by provider but is typically around $100 a month. 

As SNAP benefits wane, food-as-medicine companies carve out a niche in healthcare

Presenting some shocking statistics that put the US food crisis in a very depressing perspective, the article explains, “The end of COVID-era food and nutrition benefits is bringing an ebb to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 32 states as of March 1. With a quickly approaching cliff and 18 states already having lost emergency benefits, digital food-as-medicine programs are bringing resources to the table.” 

According to the article, regarding SNAP, formally known as food stamps, “41 million Americans receive the benefit that expanded at the beginning of the pandemic. At the end of the month, it is estimated that 16 million Americans will receive about $90 less a month. Some beneficiaries with the greatest need will lose up to $258 monthly, and further cuts are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who want more stringent eligibility requirements for the federal program.”

Can food cure high medical bills? Pilot ‘food as medicine’ programs aim to prove just that.

Arkansas, Oregon, and Massachusetts received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last year to use a portion of their Medicaid funds to pay for food programs, including medically tailored meals, groceries and produce prescriptions (fruit and vegetable prescriptions or vouchers provided by medical professionals for people with diet-related diseases or food insecurity). The aim is to see whether providing people with nutritious foods can effectively prevent, manage, and treat diet-related diseases.  Let’s hope all the other states follow suit.


Michelle Colman

Food Rescue US – Fairfield County Food as Medicine Liaison

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