Food for Thought: Innovative Nutrition Services for Underserved Breast Cancer Clients

By: Claire Wright, October 31, 2017

The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, along with our six nutrition partners, Project Angel Food, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Project Open Hand, God’s Love We Deliver, Food & Friends, and Community Servings, released a new nutrition report: “Food for Thought: Innovative Nutrition Services for Underserved Breast Cancer Clients.” The report focuses on how to properly engage, support and treat food insecure breast cancer clients, and what other organizations can do to help support this population.

Food insecurity is defined as not having access to a sufficient amount of affordable and nutritious food. Each of our six nutrition partners are constantly finding new and innovative ways to reach food insecure breast cancer patients and provide them with the nutritional care and food they need to nourish and strengthen their bodies during their treatment and beyond.

When putting together the “Food for Thought” report, our partners used their programs as models to identify best practices for creating a successful medical nutrition program for underserved and food insecure breast cancer clients. The key findings include:

  • Create resources that identify clients in need and refer them to appropriate medical nutrition services
  • Implement medically tailored meal and grocery delivery to better cater to food insecure populations
  • Co-locate nutrition services to help ease the barriers many underserved clients face like transportation, time and energy, and lack of financial stability
  • Teach clients, caregivers and local communities about medical nutrition services through locally-tailored nutrition education and outreach

“The three-pronged approach that makes Project Open Hand’s model successful – that reduces hospitalizations and increases adherence to treatment plans – is providing good food that you want to eat, requiring that you be engaged with your doctor, and requiring that you see our dietitians to learn the basics of nutrition.” – Mark Ryle, LCSW, CEO of Project Open Hand

Using these findings, the six organizations formulated three recommendations as guidance for other organizations who may want to implement similar medical nutrition programs:

  • Always screen patients for food insecurity
  • Seek to build partnerships with other food-based organizations in the community
  • Include nutrition services in conversations about reimbursement

It is our hope that these findings and recommendations will lay a foundation for other organizations to start similar programs so that more people with breast cancer across the country can get the healthy food they need for themselves and their dependents.

To read the report in its entirety, visit here.