With deep distrust in both traditional healthcare and food systems, Americans are sick of feeling sick.
Now, food-as-medicine startups aim to reverse chronic illness, starting with those most in need.
The latest: Season Health, a startup helping health plans prescribe food as medicine, is committing $5M to open community kitchens in food-insecure neighborhoods.
In partnership with healthy meal delivery service Territory Foods, Season will help local entrepreneurs establish distribution points for pre-made, clinically approved meals.
Beyond the initiative, Season is kicking off a pilot study with 1K diabetes patients nationwide, offering coaching through its platform, a food stipend, meal delivery through Instacart, and free at-home blood testing.
Why it matters: No surprise, consistently eating poorly makes us sicker. Food as medicine—the prescribed eating of nutritionally dense foods—has massive potential in improving health outcomes. But, according to Deloitte, access remains a roadblock:
- 48M+ US households have a member with a health condition that needs to be managed through diet.
- Roughly 17M Americans live in food deserts.
Unfortunately, prescribing a “healthy diet” isn’t enough. While 75% strongly agree that eating the right food can be the best medicine, Americans’ food education is often skewed by unregulated marketing claims from Big Food.
- 62% are confused about the healthfulness of specific foods because of misinformation.
- Four in 10 consumers don’t clearly understand which fresh foods can act like medicine.
Looking ahead: While the White House updates federal guidance, many startups are taking action to increase access.
- Healthy fast-casual restaurant Everytable raised $55M, opening locations in food deserts with pricing set according to median income level for the zip code.
- Swap Health, a platform connecting low-income individuals to nutritional therapy and access to fresh food, launched with funding from 25m Health.
- Revero, WellTheory, and Vitract use precision nutrition to treat the root causes of autoimmune, chronic, and mental illnesses.
- Sifter, which secured $5M in May, uses an app to help grocery store shoppers find the right healthy foods to manage their specific conditions.