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January 31, 2013

Food as Medicine

There is no disagreement as to the “virtue” of providing medically necessitated meals to our clients. The kindness, the neighborliness, and the helpfulness to these children and adults is unquestioned. However, more and more, funders are asking: “Is the cost of providing medical care reduced for individuals who receive home-delivered meals and nutrition services?” As the country continues to become even more focused on healthcare expenses, the concern about saving public and private dollars has become more prevalent.

I want to share with you two recent studies that suggest there are reductions in healthcare costs among critically ill patients and seniors who receive home-delivered nutrition.

Our colleagues at MANNA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, provide services very similar to those we offer. A pilot study, “Food as Medicine: Reducing Health Care Costs with Comprehensive Medical Nutrition Therapy,” conducted from 2010-2012 by MANNA, suggests that there is a meaningful reduction in healthcare costs for those who receive home-delivered meals as compared to comparable patients who did not.

Here are just a few of their findings:
  • MANNA clients were over 20% more likely to be released from the hospital to home rather than to long-term care or health care facility.
  • Average monthly health care costs of MANNA clients fell 62% for three consecutive months after beginning service.
  • Monthly inpatient hospital costs of clients were 30% lower over the six months following initiation of services as compared to the six months prior to starting MANNA.
  • For HIV/AIDS patients, costs fell over 80% in the first three months.
  • When MANNA clients needed hospitalization, their improved nutritional status resulted in reducing the average number of monthly visits to half that of the comparison group and their length of stay for inpatient visits was 37% shorter.

Another study conducted at Brown University was published in December 2012 in Health Services Research (“The Relationship between Older Americans Act Title III State Expenditures and Prevalence of Low-Care Nursing Home Residents”). The findings suggest where there are greater public expenditures for home-delivered nutrition, there is a reduction in the frequency of providing nursing home care.

Here are a couple of their findings:
  • States that have invested in their community-based service networks, particularly home-delivered meal programs, have proportionally fewer low-care nursing home residents.
  • For every $25 per year per older adult above the national average that states spend on home-delivered meals, they could reduce their percentage of low-care nursing home residents compared to the national average by 1%.

These studies give us the opportunity to make a more statistical case for support. Both shed much needed light on the impact of our services not only as they pertain to the health of our clients but on the benefits our services provide to the entire community. Our services and services similar to ours are not only an expression of human concern, it is the exercise of prudent expenditures with a good return on the dollar.

I will continue to update you as more compelling information comes out about the impact of our services. Until then, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on these studies and the impact you feel our services make in the community. Comment or share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.

Always your friend,
Craig Shniderman
Executive Director

Craig Shniderman has led Food & Friends as the Executive Director since April 1995. He is a native of the Washington area and has lived and worked in Greater Washington for almost his entire career.

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