2022-23 Food as Medicine Accelerator Cohort
Community Servings is excited to announce this year’s cohort of participants in the national Food as Medicine Coalition’s Accelerator Program. This will be the third cohort to participate in the program, which began in 2020.
The five participating organizations this year will include: Central Texas Food Bank in Austin TX, FISH Community Food Bank in Washington State, Providence – a program of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, San Antonio Food Bank in Texas and Treasure Coast Food Bank in Florida. This is the first year that all five participating organizations operate food banks in their local communities, and we are looking forward to the shared insights and experiences that will arise from their collaboration.
The Accelerator Program is an initiative led by the Food is Medicine Coalition (FIMC), Community Servings, God’s Love We Deliver, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School. A 12-month technical assistance program, the Accelerator’s mission is to refine, replicate, and broadly scale the Medically Tailored Meals (MTM) model nationwide. Given that large parts of the country lack access to MTM services, a key goal of the Accelerator Program is to train emerging MTM programs in the operational, policy, and contracting mechanisms of an MTM organization so they can become future providers of Medically Tailored Meals.
Studies have shown that MTM interventions improve health outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and enhance patient satisfaction for individuals experiencing nutrition insecurity and diet-related chronic illness. Evidence continues to grow demonstrating the benefits of MTM for individuals with complex health challenges with recent research showing a net decrease in healthcare costs of up to 16%, a reduction in inpatient hospital admissions of 52%, and a decrease of 70% in emergency department visits.
While other food insecurity interventions, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provide assistance to offset the challenges around a lack of consistent access to sufficient, nutritious foods, Medically Tailored Meals address these problems at multiple entry points. MTM are shown to be effective in supporting dietary behavior change, improving access to nutritious foods on a consistent basis, and relieving clients of the impossible choice between managing their illness and purchasing healthy foods.
As part of the Accelerator, organizations are trained to offer a complete MTM intervention which includes FIMC-approved standards for nutrition, counseling and education, data collection, food quality and preparation, home delivery, and health care referrals. This comprehensive training will ensure that people coping with food insecurity and severe illness have access to the full set of MTM services shown to be most effective, regardless of where they reside. Aspects of this multi-dimensional approach, like data collection, will also help to standardize the implementation of MTM programs as they continue to expand in reach.
The trainings are held virtually throughout the year with two multi-day in-person sessions at Community Servings in Boston, MA and God’s Love We Deliver in NYC, NY, respectively. These in-person sessions are a great opportunity for participants to see well-established organizations in action and to collaborate more intensively across the groups. Trainings focus on operational levers for scaling, such as kitchen expansion, distribution, contracting opportunities, and compliance. Trainings also include policy levers to establish coverage of MTM, particularly within the Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance market, analysis of national and state-level opportunities for healthcare contracting, and education of MTM providers on federal and state law and policy developments.
In addition to group trainings, the Accelerator offers select customized trainings for individual agencies and organizations, including agency coaching focused on growth and financial planning, and policy assistance to explore state and regional contracting opportunities. These customized trainings help move agencies along in their readiness to launch an MTM intervention.
As we approach the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September, the impact of the Accelerator Program and development of new MTM providers have taken on even greater weight. The first of its kind since 1969, the Conference will have significant implications for the policy-level changes around Medically Tailored Meals, with the potential for meals to become a fully reimbursable benefit by Medicare and Medicaid. The last White House Conference held in 1969 had a pivotal role in determining the food policy agenda for the next fifty years, so we are excited to be so closely involved in the advocacy process and to follow the outcomes as they emerge.
The upcoming conference and the national attention it is receiving have created a unique opportunity to increase access to Medically Tailored Meals and improve health outcomes for millions of Americans impacted by severe diseases like cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more. We are thrilled to be expanding this program to more organizations across the country each year and are excited to see how cohorts past, present, and future continue the work of bringing Medically Tailored Meals to their communities.