Getty Images

HHS Pledges $2.5M to Produce Prescription Programs for Food Insecurity

The investment under the Biden-Harris Nutrition Strategy will fund prescription programs promoting access to nutritious foods and reducing food insecurity among AI/AN communities.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the Indian Health Service (IHS), has slated $2.5 million to support the development of produce prescription, a growing approach to tackle food insecurity and social determinants of health for underserved populations.

American Indians and Alaska Natives experience greater levels of food insecurity compared to other demographic groups. About one in four Native people experience food insecurity; meanwhile, it impacts one in nine Americans overall.

These disparate trends of food insecurity among American Indians and Alaska Natives can be linked to factors such as constrained income and employment opportunities, as well as inadequate access to big-box grocery stores, and the prevalence of food deserts.

As a part of the Biden-Harris Administration's Nutrition Strategy, strengthening these programs in Native communities aims to reduce food insecurity and improve health outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives by increasing their access to fresh produce and healthy traditional foods.

“American Indians and Alaska Natives are at a greater risk for food insecurity than white Americans, Black Americans, or Hispanic Americans,” said IHS Director Roselyn Tso. “Produce prescription programs have been shown to increase access to nutritious foods in communities at risk for food insecurity. I look forward to seeing positive results for our people and patients through this funding.”

According to the press release, four to seven awards will be issued to community-based organizations, including tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian healthcare organizations. The deadline for submitting applications is June 23, 2023.

To be considered for this funding opportunity, eligible applicants must identify a target population and establish an infrastructure that promotes collaboration with healthcare facilities, local markets, organizations, and services that offer fresh fruits, vegetables, and traditional foods.

“Improving health through better nutrition is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration, and an important part of our work to reduce food insecurity and foster nutrition equity,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s award will ensure that tribal communities have better access to the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.”

The concept that "food is medicine" has gained traction, becoming a key element in the federal government's strategy to address hunger and reduce the prevalence of diet-related diseases.

This approach acknowledges the importance of nutrition in promoting overall health and wellness, particularly in underserved communities where access to fresh produce is often limited due to prohibitive costs.

These produce prescription programs have the potential to make a significant impact on public health by increasing the availability of nutritious food options for vulnerable populations.

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Patient data access

xtelligent Health IT and EHR