HUGE news on the “food-as-medicine” front for Medicaid/Medicare Advantage beneficiaries! Now, they can get fresh fruits and veggies delivered directly to their doorsteps and they can pay for them using their SNAP/EBT benefits. FarmboxRx is behind this first-of-its-kind partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and here to talk through EXACTLY why this is groundbreaking (and what precedent it could set for the food-as-medicine movement in terms of payor support) is founder and CEO, Ashley Tyrner.
As Ashley explains it, FarmboxRx’s produce deliveries have been previously covered by Medicare Advantage and Medicaid, but only under the limited ‘over-the-counter’ healthy foods benefits those plans provide. In some states, this nets to just $20-$25 per month for a family of one. With the addition of SNAP/EBT funding, the budget available for spending on these farm-to-table deliveries expands to $164-$230 per month. A potential game-changer.
We unpack Farmbox further and get into how they’re differentiated from Amazon and Walmart, which also take food stamps online, but don’t deliver produce nationally like Farmbox does. This is a move Ashley describes as having the ability to “eradicate food deserts overnight.” There’s so much more about food insecurity, the way FarmboxRx is working with health plans to use food as member engagement and trust-building tool, and, of course, the backstory behind the business which is basically BOOTSTRAPPED (there’s some venture debt) and raising a Series A.
Last week House Republicans voted to cut benefits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, slashing $39 billion in benefits over the next ten years in a vote of 217 to 210. All members of the Democratic caucus voted against the bill, which would affect 4 million people.
In June, fiscal conservatives squashed the Farm Bill that would have cut spending by $20 billion over ten years after determining the decrease was too meager. This new bill is their response to that. If successful, half of the cuts will put a stop to food aid after three months to people between 18 and 50 with no minors living with them if they are unable to find work, a move that makes little sense.
Poverty and health are inextricably linked, and food security plays a central role in this. Not only does poverty affect a family’s ability to buy food, it prevents them from buying healthy food. In the United States, lower income individuals are more likely to be obese, putting a strain on the healthcare system. Currently, beneficiaries of SNAP are eligible for SNAP-Ed, a nutrition education program designed to promote healthy eating on a limited budget. It is unclear how these cuts will affect SNAP-Ed.
African-Americans, no strangers to health inequalities, will be disproportionately affected by this change if successful. A new study shows that 90 percent of African-Americans benefitted from food stamps at one point or another in their lives. One in four African-American households faces food insecurity, and make up about 23% of all SNAP recipients.