Human Services Secretary Highlights ‘Food as Medicine’ During Philadelphia Roundtable Focused on Improving Medicaid’s Nutritional Supports

Philadelphia, PA - Department of Human Service (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today joined Sue Daugherty, RDN, LDN and CEO of MANNA and Pennsylvania’s seven physical health Medicaid managed care organizations to discuss the importance of food and nutrition in health care as well as work to expand nutritional support in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program.

“As we continue to strengthen our Medicaid program, doing more to help Pennsylvanians shore up these core, essential needs that are foundational to good health and a vibrant, productive life will also remain a focus. I’m grateful for MANNA and our managed care partners for the progress we’ve made in this space so far as we plan for ways to further invest in this work,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “It is not enough to treat the urgent need – we must also always maintain a focus on better prevention to help fight health inequities and support a better life for all people, no matter their circumstance.”

A person’s ability to access and afford a healthy, nutrient rich diet as well as having enough to eat each day are closely linked to their overall health and wellbeing. Poor nutrition can both cause and exacerbate chronic health risks and conditions, while inconsistent access to healthy foods or going without meals can worsen health outcomes and lead to greater need for acute care and pharmaceutical interventions. The impact on poor nutrition and health can increase health care spending and further health inequities amongst lower income people who are more likely to experience food insecurity and barriers to fresh, healthy produce and groceries.

Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program provides health care coverage to more than 3.5 million people of all ages and is among the largest payor of health care in the Commonwealth. DHS is committed to working with our managed care organizations and other partners like MANNA to encourage interventions that help ease access to essential, core needs like healthy produce, meats, and other groceries. This work helps people understand how their diet can improve or have an adverse impact on their health and seeks empower Medicaid recipients with nutritional education and direct food assistance to help them better care for themselves and manage or mitigate potential chronic health risks.

MANNA, which has been treating diet-related diseases for more than 30 years, is an important partner in this effort, working with many managed care organizations to provide medically tailored meals as part of treatment plans for Medicaid recipients with certain conditions or diagnoses.

“Malnutrition is a common comorbidity of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There is strong evidence that medically tailored meals address malnutrition and decrease hospital admissions and readmissions, improve patient outcomes, and significantly lower costs for payors. In fact, a national study suggests that if medically tailored meals were given to all eligible recipients, there could be a reduction of 1.5 million hospitalizations and net savings of $13.6 billion in one year,” said Daugherty.

She added, “At issue is the fact that many people with severe illnesses who are prescribed a specific diet as part of treatment aren’t able to consistently access nor afford essential nutrition services. However, with Secretary Arkoosh’s support and that of regional Medicaid insurers, we aim to solve that, advancing both public policy and increasing the number of payors that recognize and cover food as medicine. Together, we can ensure these services become a standard of care for all who need them.”

For more information on DHS and health care and nutrition programs available to help Pennsylvanians, visit

# # #

DHS Media Contact Details

Press Office

Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
Department of Human Services Media

Ali Fogarty

Communications Director Department of Human Director 717-425-7606
Department of Human Services Media

Brandon Cwalina

Press Secretary Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
Department of Human Services Media