California is in the midst of overhauling its Medicaid program to better serve the 12 million low-income residents who rely on it for health care. One way the state plans to do this is by offering medically supportive food and nutrition, a spectrum of food-based health interventions including food pharmacies, produce prescriptions, healthy groceries and medically tailored meals designed to prevent, reverse and treat chronic health conditions. To successfully implement these programs, health plans need experienced partners. But does California have the existing capacity to fulfill this need?
This report — a collaboration between SPUR, the Food as Medicine Collaborative and the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations — shows there is already a strong network of non-traditional providers, such as governmental departments and community-based organizations, poised to expand medically supportive food and nutrition services. However, to build on the existing network of providers, the health care system must address barriers to scaling. Nearly 70% of non-traditional providers reported a lack of sustainable funding as a barrier to providing these services. And nearly 60% of health care providers reported a lack of capacity. To address these outstanding barriers, the report provides recommendations for how the Department of Health Care Services, health plans and current and potential providers can ensure successful implementation of these innovative interventions.