Food as Medicine: A Primer on a Growing Trend

While the concept of “food as medicine” has been around for centuries, the philosophy is gaining momentum of late. So much so, in fact, that The Food Institute will highlight the concept and the growing “better-for-you food” trend in our monthly report, released tomorrow.

Food as medicine generally refers to the idea of using diet and nutrition to promote overall health and wellness. And few people are as knowledgeable about it than Ann Thrupp, PhD., the director of the California Food Is Medicine Coalition.

Ahead of tomorrow’s report, The Food Institute spoke about food as medicine with Thrupp, whose organization is focused mainly on the production and home-delivery of medically-tailored meal (MTM) services. Thrupp says MTMs have been shown by scientific studies to help improve health outcomes of those with chronic and acute illnesses, and also to help reduce healthcare costs – both major tenets of the food as medicine philosophy.

Below are highlights of the conversation:

Q: Why does your organization support food as medicine?

A: (Thrupp): CalFIMC’s medically-tailored “meals include nutrient-rich whole food, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, seafood, and lean animal protein, and they’re adapted for the prevention, reversal, or treatment of specific health conditions. In sum, we support and believe in this approach of food as medicine because of evidence that it is effective and can help people improve their health and wellness.”

Q: Has the pandemic pushed Americans to educate themselves on food as medicine and embrace the concept?

A: “We have seen that COVID-19 has revealed the importance of food security and nutrition for health. … In 2020, our coalition members experienced an enormous increase in demand for the services we provide, and nearly doubled our production and deliveries of meals to meet that demand for nutrition for vulnerable people who need to stay home.”

Q: Do you think food as medicine will grow in the years ahead?

A: “The need for nutrition security is urgent and has accelerated over the last year, and will likely grow in the coming months and years. Likewise, we believe that the medically tailored nutrition services that CalFIMC is providing will become increasingly important, to meet the need and demand. Medical and nutrition experts have verified this projected growth, and have also confirmed the value of good nutrition to strengthen immune systems and improve wellness.”