BOSTON (SHNS) – The growth in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic magnifies the need for Massachusetts to launch a pilot program linking nutritional meals and health, supporters told lawmakers Thursday.
Since March 2020, the statewide Community Servings nonprofit has increased its monthly meal production by a whopping 70 percent after demand “skyrocketed,” according to CEO David Waters. That trend, Waters told lawmakers Thursday, stands as further proof of the benefits that individual patients and the state as a whole could reap from a proposed pilot program (H 2298 / S 1403) that would provide medically tailored nutrition services for 16 weeks to MassHealth enrollees with one of several chronic illnesses.
“The pending legislation could help address significant gaps we’ve seen that impede access to life-saving, health-promoting nutrition services, including providing nutrition services at the household level,” Waters said. Supporters renewed their push for the legislation, which is now before the Public Health Committee, after a similar version failed to clear the Health Care Financing Committee last session.
Sen. Julian Cyr, who filed the Senate version, said the pilot it would create would be the first of its kind in the nation and would include an evaluation process designed to study how medically tailored meals impacted patient outcomes and total health care spending.
“Food insecurity has been an unacceptable reality for too many here in Massachusetts for many years, but really since and during the COVID pandemic, my district like the rest of Massachusetts has been experiencing unprecedented levels of food insecurity,” Cyr told his colleagues. “Food is medicine services effectively and equitably address the link between food insecurity, chronic disease, and health care costs.”