This Month’s Food as Medicine Roundup: April 2020

Sahra Pak April 30, 2020
Sahra Pak
As a registered dietitian, Sahra brings her extensive experience in health care and public health to Lighter to improve the health of the population through effective communication, sustainable behavior modification approaches and upstream intervention strategies. Through her work with Los Angeles and Solano County Departments of Public Health, Kaiser Permanente, and partnering with health advocacy organizations such as CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), Sahra has helped create sustainable food systems, adapted public policy, implemented environmental change, and health education programs.

Thank you for checking out this week’s edition of our Food as Medicine News Roundup! Once a month, I’ll share a collection of important and trending articles in the food as medicine space.

We are now a quarter of the way through 2020 and what a year it has been so far. Our food system has been impacted like no other time in modern history due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). From farmers having to adapt abruptly to the change in the supply chain due to the closures of restaurants and other outlets to grocery workers working on the front lines juggling the safety of customers, their families, and themselves - the food chain and hence our foodscape has been altered significantly. 

We are highlighting the challenges and changes impacting consumers as well as the adjustments around food purchasing and consumption that most have adopted. Keep reading to discover where the greatest needs are for access to nutritious and safe foods and which food items consumers are stockpiling during the countrywide ‘lock-down.’ 


Shoppers are happy with their grocery stores and spend more on groceries per visit - but heed on demographic differences

As shoppers reduce the frequency of visits to grocery stores, almost a third of shoppers (29%) are spending 44% more on groceries each time they shop. Despite having to wear a mask and social distance in the stores, including waiting in line to get into the store to shop, 73% feel that they are satisfied and happy with their primary store they patronize. 

However, there are demographic differences that healthcare providers should note. Latinx and Black shoppers report more disruption in their household from job losses to changes in purchasing habits. More than half (54%) of Latinx households are likely to report a lost job or reduction in wages and both Latinx and Black households report changes in living situations when compared to other races. 


Latinx and Back shoppers have traditionally been higher adopters of online grocery shopping, and their use of online grocery shopping is expanding. About one in four of all Latinx and Black shoppers placed their first online grocery order in the past month.”

⏤ Steve Markenson, Director, Research, FMI


With online grocery shopping seeing substantial growth during this time, convenience is on the minds of shoppers (and patients!). Although discounts on online grocery platforms have seen a sharp decline due to demand and rise in supply chain cost of up to 25 percent, discounts are projected to return once our life returns to ‘normal.’ Out of an estimated one-third of shoppers purchasing food online over the past few weeks, 41 percent are first-time online food and grocery shoppers making LighterPRO a great solution for delivering food as medicine to your patients and clients. 



Meat processing plants shut down while shoppers fall in love with humble beans

Over the past few weeks, major meat processing plants have closed due to workers contracting COVID-19 and falling ill. From Tyson to Smithfield, the executives are warning of a dire consequence and a ‘disastrous’ effect on the food supply if they cannot reopen the facilities ASAP. But when over half of the active coronavirus cases in a state can be attributed to a single employer (Smithfield) - the facilities in the U.S. have to close until the coronavirus cases are handled. 

However, there are a couple of things we should all be aware of - warnings such as those made by food corporations and media outlets create panic (remember TP-maggedon?) that leads to overbuying by consumers and hence lead to ‘shortages’ that are (partially) man-made. The other factor to consider is that due to the closures of restaurants, suppliers are looking to send food to grocery stores and many are frozen. It looks like for now, as long as shoppers don’t panic it will not exacerbate the situation. 

On the other hand, beans are proving to be the comeback kid. Is the fame and return to the spotlight accompanied by an apocalyptic feel? Perhaps. But the bottom line is that consumers are enjoying more beans during this time. 


“In mainstream American culture, beans have long been associated with the end of the world and beloved by those who think they might survive it. It’s only recently that a combination of new approaches to home cooking and concern over the environment has prompted food-minded Americans who did not grow up making beans to embrace them.”

⏤ Meghan McCarron, Eater


According to Nielsen, shoppers purchased 231 percent more beans compared to the same time last year. Aside from beans, snack foods are also gaining popularity as consumers seek comfort - popcorn and pretzels are up between 47 - 48 percent, and pastries and ice cream are up between 23 - 24 percent. It’s also good to note that fresh fruits and vegetables are also on the rise where consumers are munching on 20 percent more apples and 17 percent more bananas (convenience is still key). 

As the shelter-in-place continues, your patients’ eating patterns are changing to adapt to their altering lifestyle, family, and emotional needs. Foods that deliver nourishment can provide health and sustenance to help your patients get through the pressure and stressors even, and especially, during a pandemic.  

Here’s to good food for all