This was originally published by The Rockefeller Foundation on November 30, 2022.
Grants will help prevent, manage, and treat diet-related illnesses among food-insecure Americans
The Rockefeller Foundation has committed $4.6 million in grants for equitable and community-directed approaches to prevent, manage, and treat diet-related illnesses in the United States. The funding will support grantees advancing Food is Medicine interventions focused on building partnerships with key stakeholders and bridging the gaps between food and health care. The goal of this investment is to help the millions of patients facing food insecurity or diet-related diseases gain more equitable access to foods that promote better health outcomes and reduce health costs.
“We know healthy food is medicine, that patients in study after study benefit from it; but we also know that too few in the United States have access to this sort of food,” said Devon Klatell, Vice President, Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “That’s why we’re investing in a food system that prioritizes nutrition, bringing partners together across the food and health sectors, and promoting data-driven policies to help bring good food – and better health outcomes – to millions of people across the country.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are nearly 34 million people facing food insecurity in America. Chronic and diet-related illnesses, which include cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the leading causes of death in the United States, disproportionately affecting BIPOC and low-income communities. In addition, while U.S. consumers paid an estimated $1.1 trillion for food in 2019, this does not include another $604 billion in health care costs directly attributable to diet-related diseases, according to The Rockefeller Foundation’s True Cost of Food report.
Recent research from Tufts University, Duke University, and the University of Texas, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, represents the largest collection of findings to date on the effectiveness of produce prescription programs and their positive physical and mental impacts on participants and communities. These programs led to improvements in self-reported health status, fruit and vegetable intake, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels; as well as in rates of food security. Across the board, participants, clinical staff, and community members expressed support for expanding produce prescription programs within healthcare settings. The findings from this research suggest that wider Food is Medicine programs can improve health outcomes and garner savings.
“Even as diet-related diseases continue to heavily burden communities across the U.S., today’s health care system places minimal emphasis on food and nutrition,” said Diana Johnson, Program Officer, Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Food is Medicine programs, ranging from medically tailored meals to produce prescription programs, are widely recognized as powerful interventions, but currently only reach a fraction of those who could benefit. We urgently need investment in these programs that will improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs nationwide.”
To further unlock the potential of Food is Medicine, The Rockefeller Foundation is investing in three key areas: (1) building high-quality evidence through research; (2) promoting policies that support the integration of nutrition incentives into health care; and (3) improving infrastructure needed to remove bottlenecks and deliver programs to those most in need.
Specifically, the new funding will support:
- About Fresh to bolster its large-scale Food is Medicine demonstration project for health-forward food access in collaboration with the U.S. government’s Veterans Health Administration.
- Adelante Mujeres to support its mission to promote community participation in education, advance health equity – including improving access to healthy food through nutrition incentives and produce prescription programs, and offer leadership opportunities for the prosperity of marginalized Latina women.
- Deep Medicine Circle to support its Farming as Medicine program by returning land to Indigenous People; recognizing farmers as health stewards; elevating evidence of the regenerative impacts of Indigenous food systems; and decommodifying food.
- Harvard University Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation to support legal and policy research, develop educational resources, and provide technical assistance related to nutrition interventions to support the implementation of nationwide Food is Medicine policy.
- The Health Initiative to advance opportunities for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to leverage intra- and inter-agency partnerships to support accelerated access to healthy food.
- Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy to advance awareness, science, and implementation of Food is Medicine interventions.
- Wholesome Wave to support its National Produce Prescription Collaborative and expand Produce Prescription programs in the U.S. as a tool in prevention and intervention for diet-related diseases.
As previously announced, The Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association (AHA) plan to mobilize $250 million to build a national Food is Medicine Research Initiative. The Foundation is also providing funding and support to:
- American Heart Association to support the development of a research initiative that will evaluate the effectiveness of Food Is Medicine programs to improve health outcomes, reduce health disparities across communities, and reduce diet-related healthcare costs in the U.S.
Food is Medicine is a key focus area of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Good Food Strategy. Launched in March 2022, the $105-million Good Food Strategy, which is The Rockefeller Foundation’s largest-ever investment in food and nutrition, aims to reach 40 million underserved people around the globe over three years with solutions that benefit human health, protect the planet, and create more equitable opportunity globally.