Let food be thy medicine, and let thy provider pay for it

SNAP Tokens used at farmers market Tokens used to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at a farmers market (Bread for the World/Flickr)

Food as medicine is not a new idea, but getting doctors to prescribe it and insurance companies to pay for it is certainly something new.

Dr. Rita Nguyen, San Francisco Department of Public Health chronic disease physician specialist presented startling research at the recent EcoFarm conference that links food insecurity and health, with low-income communities and communities of color bearing a disproportionate burden of food insecurity.

“Perhaps the intervention with the greatest potential for large scale population change is leveraging health care policy and systems change to support food interventions,” Nguyen said in her session.

She shared examples of food intervention studies that showed significant improvements in health outcomes for patients with chronic disease that were prescribed food as medicine.

EcoFarm conference photo collageDr. Rita Nguyen and Cathryn Couch speak at the EcoFarm Conference, food as medicine session. (Courtney Crenshaw)

Cathryn Couch, Ceres Community Project CEO and California Food is Medicine Coalition chair shared the exciting momentum that is happening at the intersection of food and health. California is leading the country by launching the first statewide medically tailored meal pilot program in the United States.

Courtney Crenshaw, Health Care Without Harm western U.S. regional coordinator joined the conversation to explain why it is important for health care organizations to focus on food quality and procurement standards that support human and environmental health as part of a food-as-medicine framework. She shared specific examples of how regional hospitals, farmers and nonprofit partners are collaborating to create a new paradigm around food as medicine that uses an environmental nutrition approach.

The 40th annual EcoFarm conference was held Jan. 22-25 in Pacific Grove, Calif and focused on weaving together a tapestry of speakers and workshops meant to inspire us about the real-world implications of the ecological and social aspects of sustainability.

Learn more about the power of fruit and vegetable incentive programs

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