Dive Brief:

Instacart announced Friday that it plans to give health providers, health systems and hospitals the ability to scale food-as-medicine programs. Within the next six months, it will partner with Boston Children’s Hospital and at least four other major health care providers across the U.S. to create virtual food pharmacies and other food is medicine interventions.

Within that time frame, Instacart will also launch four research projects looking at how food-as-medicine programs impact different patient groups, including individuals who live in low-income and food-insecure households.

Instacart has also added online advertising capabilities that allow produce brands to advertise weighted items, such as fresh produce. The company has a pilot underway with produce brands and agriculture boards and plans to roll out weighted produce advertising “over the coming weeks.”

Dive Insight:

These announcements come six months after Instacart unveiled its sweeping Instacart Health initiative and on the day of the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities Kickoff.

Instacart Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Dani Dudeck framed the bundle of new developments as the “next chapter” for Instacart Health.

The company is offering to build custom virtual store fronts for hospitals and health systems that allow providers to help patients with their food choices and provide food-as-medicine programs.

“Healthcare providers understand how valuable a nutritious diet can be in keeping people healthy, whether it’s ensuring a patient has access to day-to-day nutrients, helping a patient manage their diet-restrictive disease, or supporting a patient that needs to adhere to a strict diet to heal after surgery,” Sarah Mastrorocco, vice president and general manager of Instacart Health, said in a blog post.

Instacart is aiming to address the challenges that have prevented providers from “prescribing” healthy meals and launching food-as-medicine programs at scale, Mastrorocco said.

Providers will be able to leverage Instacart Health offerings such as Fresh Funds — customizable Instacart stipends — and Care Carts and also use the company’s shoppable recipes and list-building capabilities. Instacart will also offer to make custom virtual storefronts for providers, where patients can browse specific, recommended foods and then order them directly from a local retailer.

Patients will have the option to use SNAP benefits or other payment methods for their purchases, as well as have the ability to share their purchase history back to their provider, the company noted.

Instacart’s addition of weighted products to its advertising capabilities comes during National Nutrition Month, the company noted in a separate blog post. Fresh produce is the third largest category on Instacart, Ali Miller, the company’s vice president of product management, said in the post, claiming Instacart is the first company to enable weighted-item ads.

The four new studies, meanwhile, will involve researchers at several institutions, including Mount Sinai Hospital, the University of Kentucky and the Stanford Cancer Institute. The research programs will focus on the effects food-as-medicine programs can have on conditions like gastrointestinal disease, colorectal cancer, obesity and high blood pressure.

Grocers like Kroger and Ahold Delhaize are also investing in food prescriptions and food-as-medicine programs in step with healthcare professionals and institutions.

Instacart was among a dozen companies, non-profits, philanthropic groups and local elected-officials, including DoorDash, Shipt and Meijer, that made commitments or updates to previous ones in conjunction with the White House kickoff event.

The White House event Friday ties into the Biden administration’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health last fall that aims to motivate companies, governments and organizations to help end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030.

Earlier this month, Instacart and nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America launched a nutrition security program that offers families in need Fresh Funds stipends and, for a limited time, complimentary Instacart+ memberships, noting the program is initially starting in Indianapolis before expanding to more cities throughout the year.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.


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