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Food as medicine – the future of health

Tangelo   |   April 21, 2022

Medicine is “the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease”. It’s prescribed by experts and based on scientific research and evidence. It isn’t a gamble as to whether it will work. We have reason to believe and expect that it will.

Food is no different. Just as you trust Tylenol to improve your headache, you can trust nutritious food to improve your health.

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is an advocate for prescribing food as medicine. They recently compiled research as part of a Food is Medicine initiative. This research further validates our mission, offering, and vision at Tangelo.

Poor nutrition impacts everyone

Despite being largely preventable through proper diet, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes are running rampant. This not only leads to poor quality of life and lower life expectancy but also lost productivity and rising healthcare costs. The cost of lost productivity from cardiovascular disease alone has been marked at approximately $126 billion per year.

Human impact. Economic impact. Financial impact. Three enormous reasons to aggressively pursue food as medicine initiatives.

More of this, less of that

Food insecurity is about more than just the volume of food. Distributing more highly-processed foods will only make our health crisis worse. We need to give more nutrient-dense foods to make it easier to decrease the intake of unhealthy food.

Tuft’s University reports that 50% of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes are influenced by:

Not eating enough:

  • Nuts & seeds
  • Seafood & Omega 3s
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Polyunsaturated fats

And eating too much:

  • Sodium
  • Processed meats
  • Sugary beverages
  • Unprocessed red meat

Making nutritious food more affordable

As of 2021, 42 million Americans participate in SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) funding. SNAP funds bump up to 19% of families out of the “severely food insecure” category and save participants an average of $1400 in healthcare costs every year.

Now, when we break down the numbers further, the average SNAP household receives $210.07 per month to spend on nutritious food. For a family of four, that boils down to an average of $1.76 supplemented per meal. Which really is not a lot.

In fact, 51% of SNAP recipients remain food insecure and don’t have consistent access to affordable, nutritious food. SNAP participants are still two times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and three times more likely to die from diabetes than the general population.

SNAP provides incredible support to food-insecure Americans. But we need to compound the impact with complementary solutions.

Employers have a key role to play

Diet-related healthcare costs don’t just impact individuals and the government. Employers feel the pain too. When more employees get sick (especially sick with chronic diet-related illness), health claims increase. So do employer and employee premiums.

Employers have the power to take action and contribute to reducing employee health risks and rising costs. Corporate wellness programs are the key to making this happen and are well worth the ROI. For every dollar spent on a wellness program, medical costs decrease by about $3.27, and health-related absence costs by $2.73.

Even a 1% reduction in glucose and blood pressure levels has the potential to save employers up to $103 per employee, annually.

The impact of food as medicine initiatives

When we make healthy food more affordable, we see exponential results. Recent studies show that a 20% fresh produce incentive could prevent $1.95 million in cardiovascular disease. That could save $40.9 billion in healthcare costs.

If that incentive included even more nutritious foods (like nuts, seafood, and whole grains), 3.31 million cardiovascular disease events could be prevented. And $102.4 billion in healthcare costs could be saved.

Prescribing fresh food to diabetics can decrease the risk of death or complications by over 40%.

Tangelo delivers food as medicine

With research and evidence in hand, Tangelo is working to make nutritional food benefits and incentives available for all. We partner with government and healthcare organizations and employers to create customized food benefits to meet community health needs. Food benefits can be rolled out as part of nutritional assistance programs or health benefit plans.

We also provide eligible SNAP recipients with increased purchasing power to help families get more nutritious food for their money. Every time they order a healthy food box (meal-kits or ready-made meals), we give additional healthy food for free.

Tangelo members enjoy chef-crafted, dietitian-certified food, with free home delivery. Orders are conveniently made through the Tangelo mobile app, with free home delivery included every time.

With the right food, anything is possible

Changing the landscape of health is a tall order. It’s multi-faceted and requires many, many groups to work together to create and deploy innovative solutions. We’re up for the challenge. We believe in the power of food as medicine. And we are committed to making healthier living possible for all.

Do you want to distribute healthy food to your members?


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