a row of ladles in the Project Angel Heart kitchen

Research & Policy

“Your meals saved my life.”

For nearly three decades, we’ve heard these words many times from grateful clients who believe the meals they received from Project Angel Heart were one of the reasons they were able to successfully manage their life-threatening diagnosis. Health care providers, too, have shared stories about patients whose blood work or symptoms improved once they began receiving deliveries of medically tailored meals. 

Stories from Project Angel Heart clients, family members, caregivers, and health care providers, coupled with favorable program outcomes from clients, have long led us to believe that home-delivered, medically tailored meals lead to improved health and decreased health care costs for meal recipients. Now, we have data that confirms it.

Today, we’re using data and the experiences of real Coloradans to advocate on the local, state and national level for incorporating medically tailored meals into the continuum of care for people living with chronic, life-threatening illnesses.

Research

Small Intervention, Big Impact: Health Care Cost Reductions Related to Medically Tailored Nutrition

Project Angel Heart – Denver, CO

Using medical claims data from the Colorado All Payers Claims Database (APCD), we examined the health care costs of Project Angel Heart clients before, during, and after they received meal deliveries. What did we learn? Medically tailored meals led to a 13 percent decrease in the rate of hospital readmissions; total medical costs for people with CHF, COPD, and diabetes decreased by 24 percent, and clients spent less on hospital stays while receiving meals.

Medically Tailored Meals & Healthcare Utilization Study

Community Servings – Boston, MA

Community Servings’ medically tailored meals and healthcare utilization study sought to determine whether participation in a medically tailored meal intervention is associated with fewer subsequent hospitalizations and nursing home admissions – major components of the nation’s healthcare budget. The study, supported by Robert Wood Johnson’s Evidence for Action Program,  was published in the April 2019 edition of the medical journal JAMA – Internal Medicine.

Comprehensive and Medically Appropriate Food Support Is Associated with Improved HIV and Diabetes Health

Project Open Hand – San Francisco, CA

Project Open Hand partnered with UCSF to launch a pilot program to study and evaluate the intervention in Type 2 Diabetes, HIV and co-morbidly diagnosed populations. Key results included a 63 percent reduction in hospitalizations, 50 percent increase in medication adherence and 58 percent decrease in client emergency room visits. This partnership has been expanded and is in the second phase of implementation.

Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group

MANNA – Philadelphia, PA

Published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health in 2013, this study was the first of its kind to quantify the healthcare impact of a medically tailored meal program on individuals with serious illnesses. Analyzing medical claims, MANNA compared the healthcare costs of MANNA clients to the costs incurred by a matched set of Medicaid patients who did not receive services. When compared to the control group, average monthly healthcare costs for MANNA clients were $13,000 less per month, the number of hospital visits decreased by 50 percent, and hospital stays were 37 percent shorter.

Policy

Based on research and the stories we hear every day from meal recipients and health care providers, we believe that medically tailored meals are an effective intervention for reducing overall health care costs, as well as reducing the frequency of, and costs associated with, hospital readmissions for individuals living with chronic disease.

Alongside our sister agencies across the country, we are working to integrate medically tailored home-delivered meals into health care delivery and payment models. We are members of the Food Is Medicine Coalition (FIMC), a volunteer association of nonprofit, medically-tailored meal providers working to advance public policy that supports access to medically tailored food and nutrition services for people with severe and/or chronic illnesses. FIMC promotes research on the impact of food and nutrition services on health outcomes and cost of care, and members meet regularly to share best practices in the provision of medically tailored meals and nutrition education and counseling.