FoodMinds attended the Food as Medicine Summit (May 10-11, 2023) which provided a platform for leaders driving innovation across healthcare and the food industry to share their insights and experiences. It was a stimulating event, full of enlightening discussions around the intersection of the medical system, technology, food sector and nutrition. While the summit was packed with valuable insights, here are four key takeaways that food and beverage stakeholders should know about Food as Medicine.
1. Food is much more than just medicine.
- While the Food is Medicine (or Food as Medicine, depending on whom you ask) phrase was a focal point of the summit, there was palpable discomfort around this term. Food is indeed a vital part of maintaining and improving health, but it’s more than just a tool for disease prevention and treatment. It’s also about pleasure, social bonding, cultural expression and so much more.
- Stakeholders in this space should focus on a balanced narrative around food that acknowledges its potential to heal and also respects its cultural, social and sensory importance.
2. Embracing cultural relevance is critical in Food is Medicine initiatives.
- Summit participants acknowledged food is deeply tied to culture, and neglecting this connection can be the difference between success and failure in a Food is Medicine program. Some attendees noted that their rubric for a “healthy food” was solely based on the “Mediterranean Diet” pattern, which – while a healthy way of eating – may not be inclusive of all their clients’ diverse cultural backgrounds.
- Food is Medicine leaders must incorporate cultural relevance into their program development and implementation strategies.
3. Healthy eating is nuanced and multifaceted and cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.
- A noticeable gap in the summit’s discourse was the lack of nuance regarding what constitutes a “healthy food” or “healthy dietary pattern.” Those of us in the nutrition space know nourishing dietary patterns are not one-size-fits-all and can vary greatly depending on individual needs, lifestyles and even genetic factors. The absence of specificity in the discussion may lead to oversimplification of the concept of healthy eating.
- Companies and groups working in Food is Medicine must recognize and respect the complexity of healthy dietary patterns.
4. Globally, few linkages exist between health insurance payers and the broader food system.
- While the concept of using food in healing traditions has deep roots in many societies and cultures, the movement toward incorporating linkages between health insurance payers and the food system seems to be a mostly U.S.-based phenomenon at this point. In other parts of the world (e.g., Germany, Mexico and the Philippines), there is much more of a focus on the culinary medicine aspect of Food is Medicine, where healthcare providers are being trained in nutrition and passing along culinary information to patients.
- Companies interested in promoting their work in this space should be mindful of this difference and develop tailored messaging and initiatives for each market.
Interested in learning more? FoodMinds’ Global Food & Nutrition Affairs team is closely monitoring the Food is Medicine landscape. Reach out to Maya Maroto, who leads our Food is Medicine services, to schedule a call and start the conversation. Looking for the latest Food & Nutrition Affairs, Policy and Regulatory insights? Subscribe to our Global Foodscapes Newsletter.