Q & A
1. You are Director of Policy and Innovation at OFS. How do those two things work together?
In my world, policy and innovation are dependent on one another. When the Policy & Innovation Team creates a new concept for addressing food insecurity, we start with the end in mind. What is the institutional or public policy lever that can sustain this effort after the initial funding runs out? It’s been relatively easy to find funding to test research-based innovative programs like Fresh Rx: Nourishing Healthy Starts. It’s much more difficult to find a continuous stream of funding for a successful program in the long term. Policy is often the best (and only) answer to long-term sustainability of a concept, assuming it demonstrates positive outcomes. Our motto is, “good policy creates good programs, and good programs help create good policy.” You can’t have one without the other.
2. What is the most important thing about the Fresh Rx program that you want people to know?
We have to start thinking differently about food insecurity and hunger if we want to see permanent positive change. Fresh Rx is our organization’s first concept for addressing hunger through healthcare policy. Our goal is to demonstrate that a modest investment in providing families with fresh, healthy food throughout a woman’s pregnancy produces significant improvements in health outcomes for both mom and baby and reduces healthcare costs. In the next three years it is our goal to prove that, in the case of food insecurity during pregnancy, food really is the best (and most economical) medicine.
3. Is there anything that has surprised you during the first year of the program?
Parents feel defeated when they struggle to put food on the table. I’ve been surprised by the immediate empowerment that comes from providing a mother with the resources and skills to provide a warm, delicious dinner for herself and her children at night. When we take that worry off the table and provide the tools for success, we’re witnessing a dramatic improvement in state of mind. Kitchen successes are translating into larger personal goals and aspirations. One of our participants recently shared that she was surprised that she was so good at making the recipes sent home in her weekly food delivery. “If I’m good at this [cooking], I wonder what else I’m good at!” I love being a part of helping women and families experience some easy wins and begin to dream bigger. The Fresh Rx team is honored to provide support to the families during such a transformational time.
4. What is your vision for the Fresh Rx program in the future?
Our vision is that every expectant mother in Missouri who is experiencing food insecurity has access to the Fresh Rx program through their health insurance. We’re making a significant investment in evaluating the impact that the program has on health outcomes and healthcare costs. We have designed Fresh Rx as a research demonstration project with the capacity to change healthcare policy at both the state and federal levels, ensuring that food becomes a reimbursable healthcare service for women who screen positive for food insecurity during pregnancy. After 15 months of research and redesign, we believe we have the perfect recipe for healthy moms and healthy babies.
To learn more about the Fresh Rx program, visit ofsfreshrx.org.