Food as Medicine

Background

Health and nutrition disparities and high rates of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are prevalent throughout the United States and are difficult to address within the current structure of our health care system. Food retail settings provide a unique opportunity for registered dietitian nutritionists to address gaps in health care equity and improve public health by providing much-needed access points and the ability for nutrition professionals to meet consumers where they are on a regular basis, and importantly, where they are making food decisions, and provide innovative, nutrition-focused programming.

In January 2019, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation (Foundation) received a planning grant from Walmart for a new project titled, “Leveraging RDNs in the Food Retail Environment to Improve Public Health.” Led by the Foundation’s Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development fellow, several resources have been developed, and several more are currently being developed to further support the work of RDNs within food retail settings.

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Food as Medicine: A Retail Nutrition Framework

This framework was a project of the Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development (NFRPD) Fellowship. The Retail Nutrition Framework outlines the landscape of Food as Medicine opportunities for food retailers, highlights current programs, and offers guidance for program development. Support for the project was funded through a grant from Walmart.

Disclaimer: The images in this video were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Academy respects and encourages the use of masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Support for this project was funded through a grant from Walmart.

Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development (NFRPD) Fellowship

Consumer focus on health and well-being and the Food as Medicine trend remain as top factors positively impacting sales and profits for food retailers, according to FMI’s Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2020 report. Health and well-being – which are defined by the consumer – will continue to be key purchase drivers as consumers lead the charge in setting food and health trends. Registered dietitian nutritionists are trusted allies for shoppers and their families and add value to food retailers by increasing customer traffic into the store, improving customer loyalty through meaningful engagement, elevating basket size and sales through direct and indirect customers interactions, enhancing the retailer’s brand image through public relations and communications, and adding to the bottom line by creating revenue streams.

In November 2019, a NFRPD expert advisory group, made up of 24 professionals chosen for their expertise in food retail, business, health care, community and research/education, convened at a roundtable meeting at the Academy headquarters in Chicago, IL to determine how food retailers can implement Food as Medicine program models with RDNs leading these efforts. The resulting Food as Medicine definition and retail nutrition framework was developed as an outcome of the two-day roundtable meeting and further supported through findings from the Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes scoping review.

Food as Medicine Defined

The NFRPD Fellow and Advisory Group created a definition for “Food as Medicine” as part of year 1 of the NFRPD fellowship. In February 2021, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Board of Directors approved the definition of “Food as Medicine” and it was added to the Academy’s Definition of Terms list, which is a  resource that houses terms, definitions, and key considerations to support the profession of nutrition and dietetics.

Food as Medicine is a philosophy where food and nutrition aids individuals through interventions that support health and wellness. Focus areas include:

  • Food as preventative medicine to encourage health and well-being;
  • Food as medicine in disease management and treatment;
  • Food as medicine to improve nutrition security;1 and
  • Food as medicine to promote food safety.

Food as medicine is a reaffirmation that food and nutrition play a role in sustaining health, preventing disease, and as a therapy for those with conditions or in situations responsive to changes in their diet.2

References:

1 Yoder AD, Proaño GV, Handu D. Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes: An Evidence Analysis Center Scoping Review. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2020; In Press.
2 Downer S, Berkowitz SA, Harlan TS, Lee Olstad D, Mozaffarian D. Food is medicine: Actions to integrate food and nutrition into healthcare. BMJ. 2020; 369: m2482.

Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Landscape Paper and Framework

Link to form to download Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Landscape Paper

The Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Framework was designed to help RDNs leading Food as Medicine efforts in food retail settings to expand the impact of food retailers to support health and well-being for their customers, employees, communities and environments they serve.

The Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Landscape white paper includes:

  • Background of the concept of Food as Medicine, the role Food as Medicine plays in health, and the importance of Food as Medicine in food retail settings
  • Current landscape of retail health and well-being
  • Food as Medicine program models and implications within food retail health and well-being platforms
  • Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Framework for program development, including focus areas, target shoppers, and recommended program models
  • Key elements for building successful Food as Medicine programs
  • Case examples of current successful Food as Medicine retail models

Interested in learning more about Food as Medicine and implementing the retail nutrition framework? Access a PDF of the Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Landscape white paper by completing a short form.

Access White Paper

The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail

Link to form to download The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail Report

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation and FMI – The Food Industry Association have released The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail, a report that outlines the business opportunities for food retailers to embrace the concept of “Food as Medicine.”

The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail report includes:

  • A science-based definition of Food as Medicine, developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and supported by a policy statement adopted by the FMI Board of Directors.
  • Perspectives of Food as Medicine, through the lens of consumers and food retailers.
  • Five program models that can be applied in food retail settings, designed to demonstrate improved results, including positive health outcomes and return-on-investment.
  • Consumer-centric strategies for key target shoppers.

Interested in learning more? Access a PDF of The Food as Medicine Opportunities in Food Retail report by completing a short form.

Access White Paper

Food as Medicine Resources

  • Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes: An Evidence Analysis Center Scoping Review — A Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes scoping review was conducted by the Academy Foundation in collaboration with the Academy’s Research, International, and Scientific Affairs team in 2019 to gain better understanding of food as medicine opportunities within food retail. This research method was used to identify peer-reviewed literature that examined food as medicine interventions in retail settings. This paper was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in November 2020.

Continuing Education

Additional Resources

  • Food as Medicine: Opportunities in Food Retail presentation — In April 2021, NFRPD Fellow Allison Yoder, MA, RDN, LD was an invited to present on “Food as Medicine: Opportunities in Food Retail” at Drake University’s Harkin on Wellness Annual Symposium. This year’s symposium was titled “Food Systems Approach to Food is Medicine: Food & Nutrition to Improve Health, Communities and the Environment.” This virtual event showcased how “food is medicine” to our bodies (physical and mental health), society (social and cultural aspects of health), economy (fiscal impact), and environment (land and water resources), highlighting solutions that promote well-being, lower health care costs, increase sustainability, reduce disparities among population groups, and improve economic competitiveness and greater national security.
  • Food as Medicine: Leveraging RDN’s in Food Retail article by Allison Yoder, Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development Fellow, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
  • Nutrition in Food Retail: Leveraging RDNs to Improve Public Health article by Allison Yoder, Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development Fellow, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
  • Defining Food as Medicine in Retail blog post by Krystal Register, Director, Health and Well-being, FMI – The Food Industry Association
  • Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes: An Evidence Analysis Center Scoping Review — A Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes scoping review was conducted by the Academy Foundation in collaboration with the Academy’s Research, International, and Scientific Affairs team in 2019 to gain better understanding of food as medicine opportunities within food retail. This research method was used to identify peer-reviewed literature that examined food as medicine interventions in retail settings. This paper was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in November 2020.