Food and Nutrition Experts and Policy Leaders Applaud Senate Leaders’ Focus on “Food as Medicine” 

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Dec 13, 2022

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research — led by Chair Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Mike Braun (R-Ind.) — held a hearing on the critical importance of “food as medicine” efforts. Food and nutrition experts and policy leaders who co-chaired the Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health (Task Force) — an independent, non-partisan group of national leaders and experts — applaud Chair Booker and Ranking Member Braun for highlighting the incredible potential of “food as medicine” initiatives in advancing the health of our nation.

Today’s hearing comes in the wake of September’s historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. “Food as Medicine” — a framework of food-based interventions integrated into the health care system to prevent and treat disease – was a critical topic at the Conference. These interventions have documented, significant improvements in health outcomes and health care utilization, with evidence for cost-effectiveness — and even net cost savings in some circumstances — and have rapidly gained interest among health care providers, health systems, payers, and patients as potential tools to improve clinical care for diet-related illness, especially for patients experiencing food and nutrition insecurity.

As part of September’s Conference, the Biden-Harris administration released the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The strategy includes key actions discussed at today’s hearing to build a future where “Food as Medicine” programs — such as medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries, and produce prescriptions — are covered benefits for targeted populations. 

Statement from Task Force Co-chair Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Food Systems for the Future; Former Executive Director, World Food Programme

“Today, the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. is diet-related disease — and people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status disproportionately bear the burdens of chronic, deadly conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But we can change that. We’re beginning to engage in a multisector dialogue around the idea of food as medicine; of nutritious food as a prescription for both improving health and preventing disease from taking root in the first place. On the heels of the historic White House Conference on Hunger, I thank Senators Booker and Braun for understanding that healthy food is essential to good health, and I remain hopeful that through a whole-of-society approach we can leverage the power of affordable and nutritious food to remediate hunger and improve people’s health.” 

Statement from Task Force Co-chair Secretary Dan Glickman, Distinguished Fellow of the Center on Global Food and Agriculture, Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; Former United States Secretary of Agriculture

“The relationship between what we eat and how it affects our health and mortality is clear. This hearing is critically important to demonstrating how what we eat can have a huge impact in keeping us healthy, and reducing the fastest growing part of the federal budget — Medicare and Medicaid payments for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.” 

Statement from Task Force Co-chair Senator Bill Frist, Former Majority Leader of the United States Senate; Global Board Chair, The Nature Conservancy; Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; Adjunct Professor of Surgery, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Department of Cardiac Surgery

“Food is medicine, and it is time we start using it as such. Today’s hearing highlighted the progress and potential for food as medicine services in not only promoting nutrition but in promoting health and reducing the prevalence of diet-related disorders. Nutritious foods are a critical and necessary component of health and wellness, and we could see great benefit from more seamlessly integrating nutrition and food services within our health care sector.”

Statement from Task Force Co-chair Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean for Policy and Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University; Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine and Division of Cardiology, Tufts Medical Center

“One of the most exciting innovations in health care is food as medicine: integrating food-based interventions into health care to prevent and treat disease. I applaud Senators Booker and Braun for their vision to hold today’s hearing. Interventions like medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions, combined with nutrition education for doctors and coverage for dietitian counseling, could make a real difference in the 550,000 annual deaths and 1.1 trillion dollars in annual healthcare spending and lost productivity due to poor diet. With the new National Strategy and dedicated bipartisan champions, we have a historic opportunity to catalyze these solutions and begin to reduce the crushing health, equity, and economic burdens of diet-related diseases.”

The Task Force’s efforts are supported by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, with funding from the Bia-Echo Foundation, HAND Foundation, Seeding the Future Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Fund at East Bay Community Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. 

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About the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is a leading U.S. institution focused on education, research, and public impact around the food system, from soil to society. The School’s five divisions and additional centers and institutes are renowned for the application of scientific evidence to national and international policy. Tufts University, located on campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, Massachusetts, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier teaching and research universities in the U.S. Learn more at nutrition.tufts.edu/

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We are collecting reports, white papers, briefs, and articles that contain policy recommendations for ending hunger, improving nutrition, and reducing diet-related chronic diseases. The focus is on domestic (U.S) policy recommendations that have been published in the past 10 years. These resources will be made available to our Task Force and may inform its final report of policy recommendations which will be submitted to the White House.

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