Prescription Dinner: Can Meals Be Medicine?

We've all heard that what you eat affects your health—but doctors prescribing dinner? It's real: Medically tailored meals are specifically designed to treat conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease, as well nourish people going through chemotherapy and radiation. Today, in a handful of places around the US, eligible patients can receive them for free, prescribed by their medical provider and reimbursed by their health insurance. There's even legislation in Congress that would roll this program out nationwide. This episode, Gastropod investigates: how do medically tailored meals work? From the science of how nutritionally designed dinners can affect disease progression, to the economics behind why it makes sense for taxpayers and insurers to invest in food, to the tricky logistics of bringing prescription meals to the masses, listen in now for the scoop on one of the biggest stories in healthcare.

Volunteers plate up meals in the Project Angel Food kitchen. Photo by Nicola Twilley.

Episode Notes

Richard Ayoub

Richard Ayoub is the CEO of Project Angel Food, as well as a member of the advisory council of the Food Is Medicine Coalition (FIMC) and the past chair of of the California Food is Medicine Coalition (CalFIMC).

John Gordon

John Gordon is the executive chef of Project Angel Food, where he has worked for nearly 30 years—starting as a dishwasher in 1994.

Chef John with a plate of Mongolian Beef in the Project Angel Food kitchen. Photo by Nicola Twilley.

Max Schroeder

Max Schroeder is a registered dietician for Project Angel Food, where she helps modify recipes to fit the specific needs of different chronic diseases.

Project Angel Food

Many thanks to the other employees and clients of Project Angel Food who spoke with us, including communications manager Noe Garcia; Alyssa Baldino, associate director of nutrition services; Ben Martin, associate director for client services and programs; and client Victor F.

Project Angel Food meals ready to be frozen. Photo by Nicola Twilley.

Alissa Wassung

Alissa Wassung is the executive director of the Food is Medicine Coalition, an association of nonprofits that provide medically tailored food and nutrition services.

Sanjay Basu

Sanjay Basu is the co-founder and head of clinical care of Waymark Care, which seeks to improve treatment options and health outcomes for patients on Medicaid.

Seth Berkowitz

Seth Berkowitz is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he studies how socio-economics create barriers to treating disease.

John Baackes and L.A. Care

John Baackes is Chief Executive Officer of L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan, serving almost 2.5 million members in Los Angeles County.

H.R. 5370: Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act of 2021

Here's how to contact your elected representative!

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics

This episode of Gastropod was supported by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics. Check out the other books, movies, shows, podcasts, and more that they support here.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund

This episode of Gastropod was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund for our coverage of biomedical research. Their support also enables us to share the special supporters-only newsletter that accompanies this episode with a wider audience.


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