Consumer / Employer, Social Determinants

FarmboxRx Launches Program To Support Those Battling Food Insecurity

FarmboxRx’s new program, called Feed by FarmboxRx, will supply 200 people affected by SNAP cuts with one box of mixed fresh produce and one box of pantry items each month for six months. They’ll also receive educational materials on how to prepare the food.

Healthy food delivery company FarmboxRx launched a new program Tuesday that aims to support those affected by cuts to pandemic-era Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Boston-based FarmboxRx contracts with payers (primarily Medicaid and Medicare programs) to deliver produce boxes, cooking kits and pantry items to patients’ doors.

During the pandemic, SNAP provided emergency allotments that gave temporary benefit increases to households to address food insecurity problems in the U.S. These emergency allotments ended in March for 32 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands (other states had already stopped supplying emergency allotments). This reduced households’ monthly benefits by $95 to $250 a month, according to FarmboxRx.

FarmboxRx’s new program, called Feed by FarmboxRx, will start by supporting 200 people affected by the cuts and gift each of them one box of mixed fresh produce and one box of pantry items each month for six months. They’ll also receive educational magazines that will provide recipes and information on how to prepare the food. In addition, they’ll have access to FarmboxRx’s contact center if they have questions about the food and how to cook it.

The educational magazines teach “individuals how to fish for themselves,” said Ashley Tyrner, CEO and founder of FarmboxRx, in an interview. “Like ‘here’s the kale, and here’s a quick, easy 10-minute recipe around the kale coming in your box.’ We’re sending out dry goods as well — things like rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal — that will correspond with the health literature in their box.”

To be eligible for the program, consumers have to validate that they currently receive SNAP benefits and that they are living in one of the states affected by the 2023 cuts. They also must provide a valid home address.

The application, which opened Tuesday and closes August 4, asks applicants for their household size and a description for why they want to receive deliveries from FarmboxRx. The applications will be reviewed by a panel of judges, and applicants will be informed if they were selected two to three weeks after the application deadline. Selections will be made based on factors like geographic limitations, income level, unemployment status, nutritional concerns and more.

“Maybe they are a single mom, maybe they are a homebound individual,” Tyrner said. “We have an internal committee who will look over all of the responses and then we will make a decision on who [will be the most impacted by] this program.”

About 42 million Americans rely on SNAP. Tyrner has her own experience when it comes to food insecurity, which inspired her to launch this program.

“I was pregnant on food stamps with my now 12-year-old daughter living in a rural food desert,” she said. “I really had a hard time having access to healthy food. … When we heard that SNAP dollars were being cut in these states, we wanted to do what we could to help individuals close that gap for a certain amount of time.”

Depending on the success of the initial program, FarmboxRx may expand it in the future. Ultimately, Tyrner hopes to drive “self efficacy” when it comes to food and nutrition.

“For us, it’s really around the behavior change, and how we can have long lasting behavior change through this program. … There’s this common misconception that just because individuals are low-income, they don’t want to eat healthy. That’s not right. They want to eat healthy and they maybe can’t afford it, they don’t have access and they don’t know what to do with it,” she stated.

Other companies in the food as medicine space include About Fresh (which gives patients an allotted amount of money to purchase healthy foods) and NourishedRx (which supplies medically-tailored meals). Some insurers have also launched food as medicine initiatives, including Highmark Health and Kaiser Permanente. At a recent panel during the MedCity INVEST conference, several healthcare leaders stressed that there needs to be structural changes to the food industry and how nutrition is taught in order to move the needle on food insecurity.

Photo: vgajic, Getty Images