Assembly Bill 368 (Reyes/Bonta) was introduced earlier this year to establish medically supportive food and nutrition pilot projects in Alameda, San Bernardino and Fresno counties. The bill called for a new program to treat, prevent or reverse diet related chronic health conditions that disproportionately impact communities of color. The legislation provided for Food Prescriptions of fruit, vegetables and other healthy food to Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan members.
Despite the strong support of a coalition of more than 50 organizations including health plans, health equity groups, food security providers, local government and advocates, the legislation was held in Committee and a request for funding in the state budget was not successful.
But the fight is not over!
We have made critical inroads in advancing the conversation around medically supportive food and nutrition and there is success to report on work being done on a parallel track.
Alameda County, as an active member of a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations has advocated for the inclusion of a broad spectrum of food-based interventions in Medi-Cal. This advocacy culminated in the California Department of Health Care Services including medically supportive food and nutrition in the state Medicaid waiver. Details are still being worked out in the waiver, known as California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM), but this is a big step forward.
“Medically supportive food and nutrition can play a critical role in closing the health disparity gap and help impacted communities build resilience.” said Alameda County Supervisor and Chair of the Health Committee Wilma Chan, an early champion of Recipe4Health, the local program the bill was based on.
This approach is already showing results. According to Dr. Steven Chen, Chief Medical Officer of ALL IN-Alameda County, Recipe4Health Alameda County participants receiving medically supportive food paired with behavioral and nutritional coaching saw an average of a 16 point reduction in blood pressure. For reference, he said, a 10 point elevation in blood pressure is associated with twice the risk of death from a heart attack or stroke.
Warm appreciation to former Assemblyman Rob Bonta for introducing the legislation and Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes who stepped up to become the lead author when Bonta became the Attorney General.