DURHAM —  A nutrition-focused “food as medicine” program, Eat Well, has been awarded $10 million from the North Carolina General Assembly, the largest investment ever made in a healthy food prescription program in the United States.

The organization behind Eat Well, Durham-based nonprofit Reinvestment Partners, has served more than 110,000 people as the largest “produce prescription” program in the country, according to a press release shared Monday.

The program helps patients manage chronic diseases, like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, by providing financial assistance to patients who need assistance purchasing nutritious foods. According to the press release, Eat Well has partnered with retailers like Food Lion, Walmart, Albertsons, Safeway, and others, with the goal of helping more patients get access to foods that will help them manage their conditions.

WRAL TechWire spoke with Sam Hoeffler, Director of Food Programs at Eat Well, about the initiative. He said that North Carolina leadership understands the power of “‘Food is Medicine’ interventions.”

“We are proud that they have put their trust in us to nourish North Carolinians while also improving health outcomes,” Hoeffler told TechWire. “Eat Well has demonstrated that a patient-centered focus and streamlined technology gets results.”

According to the Eat Well website, the program works with healthcare providers to identify eligible participants. Patients can then enroll in the program online, then once they’re in, patients receive Eat Well funds electronically that they can use to buy fruits and vegetables of their choosing at partnering grocery retailers.

Hoeffler also told TechWire that Eat Well participation increases food security by 20% and reduces the odds of Emergency Department utilization by 30%.

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“We will continue to evaluate and improve Eat Well through research partnerships with health insurance companies and North Carolina universities,” said Hoeffler. “These funds will get us closer to our goal of healthy food and healthcare for all.”

Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), a former hospital administrator, shared his support for the program in the press release.

“Addressing disease prevention with food – not expensive medication – also reduces the strain on healthcare systems and payers,” said Rep. Lambeth.

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