Building the Evidence

We engage in research projects to generate data and evidence for program decision making, evaluation, and impact assessment. The most groundbreaking research we conducted was a study evaluating the impact of MANNA’s nutrition services on client healthcare utilization.

“Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group”

Food Is Medicine
When hospitalized, the stay was 37% shorter for MANNA clients
MANNA Clients visit the Hospital 50% less
MANNA Clients are 20% more likely to be discharged to their homes
Costs fell by $10,000 after starting services - a 28% cost savings

Published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health in 2013, this study was the first of its kind to quantify the healthcare impact of a medically tailored meal program on individuals with serious illnesses. By analyzing medical claims, we could compare the healthcare costs of MANNA clients to the costs incurred by a matched set of Medicaid patients who did not receive services. We were also able to compare average healthcare costs of clients before and after services began. Overall, we found that costs were significantly lower for MANNA clients. When compared to the control group, average monthly healthcare costs were $13,000 less per month, the number of hospital visits decreased by 50%, and hospital stays were 37% shorter. Read the full study here. The results of this study quantified our impact in a way that had never been done before, enabling us to make the case to the healthcare community that food is valuable medicine. Since publishing this research, we have partnered with four major health insurance plans to provide reimbursable services to their managed care members. Our partners are reporting significant cost reductions from the improved health of their members, mirroring the results of our study and further validating the impact of nutrition services on health. These results have been influential in educating health plans, hospitals, physicians, and elected officials about the power of using food as medicine, paving the way for further integration of nutrition services into our healthcare landscape.

Graphic Source: Gurvey, J., Rand, K., Daugherty, S., Dinger, C., Schmeling, J., & Laverty, N. (2013). Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, 4(4), 311-317.

Partner Research

MANNA engages in research partnerships with local universities, healthcare systems, and doctoral candidates interested in studying our model and its impact. Please contact Jule Anne Henstenburg, Director of Research & Evaluation, if you are interested in a research partnership.

“Benchmarking a Home-Delivered Meal Program’s Satisfaction Survey” with Drexel University

“6-Month Outcomes of a Home-Delivered Meal Program for Acute Nutritional Risk” with Drexel University

For further research supporting the efficacy of using food as medicine to improve health, please visit to see studies conducted by other Food is Medicine Coalition (FIMC) members.