The PlanSector

Food Access, Security and Health

Goal 5

The roles of health care providers, institutions, and insurers in fostering access to healthy food will be expanded.

Image courtesy of Mount Holyoke College

Expanding the roles of healthcare providers, institutions, and insurers in improving healthy food access and strategies that improve health outcomes can have a profound impact on residents in Massachusetts, and especially those that are food insecure.

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Recommendations

  1. 5.1 Support actions by health care providers, hospitals and medical institutions that improve access to, and education about, healthy food, especially to people who are food insecure.
    1. Actions:
    2. 5.1.1 Incorporate food insecurity screenings and referrals to food assistance resources into regular practice for visits to the doctor’s office or clinic. Encourage health care institutions to partner with agencies that can provide SNAP enrollment assistance to patients, and encourage utilization of benefit enrollment centers to provide referrals for patients in need of additional services.
    3. 5.1.2 Support strategies to address immediate food needs of patients at doctors’ offices, hospitals, and health centers including scaling of programs in which doctors write prescriptions for patients to fill for fresh fruits and vegetables – at no cost –at local farmers markets and other retail outlets.
    4. 5.1.3 Encourage and support nonprofit hospitals in supporting and partnering with community-based programs that promote healthy food access and nutrition education. Support pilot programs that provide direct support to patients in acquiring healthy, such as on-site fresh produce sales to immediately fill fruit and vegetable prescriptions.
    5. 5.1.4 Study the Determination of Need process and related community health improvement resources for opportunities to expand and enhance health care facilities’ role in promoting and increasing access to healthy food. Innovative examples include mobile markets and fresh produce kiosks inside hospitals.
    6. 5.1.5 Encourage medical institutions to modify food procurement contract language to purchase more locally produced healthy foods, including setting local food procurement benchmark of at least 20%.
    7. 5.1.6 Encourage and support greater nutrition education in medical schools and relevant trainings for all medical professionals.
  2. 5.2 Encourage insurance providers to increase and scale up incentives and outreach that will encourage the purchase and consumption of more healthy food.
    1. Actions:
    2. 5.2.1 Provide SNAP application assistance at the time of enrollment in public health insurance programs, as well as providing easy-to-use directories and information about local Department of Transitional Assistance Offices and services, nutrition trainings, and WIC application assistance.
    3. 5.2.2 Encourage insurance providers to expand and offer discounts or rebates on premiums for purchase of healthy foods including CSA memberships and documented farmers market purchases, similar to health club discounts currently offered, or when prescribed as part of a fruit and vegetable prescription program.