Kroger is testing a new concept where doctors can write food prescriptions their patients then fulfill at one of the grocery chain’s stores with the help of a Kroger Health professional, according to an article from Supermarket News.
The pilot launched last spring in Kroger’s hometown of Cincinnati, OH. In its current form, diabetes patients work with a local physician who makes dietary recommendations they can then take to a nutrition expert at a Kroger in Forest Park, OH. The prescription itself is actually just a shopping list of food items that have been tailored to the patient’s specific medical condition.
But as Bridget Wojciak, RDN/LD, a nutrition expert at Kroger, told Supermarket News, the program is much more comprehensive than a shopping list of food items. An in-store dietitian can make recommendations based not only on the food items on the prescription but also around the individual patient’s lifestyle, budget, and skill level when it comes to cooking.
“We find that a lot of physicians give difficult-to-follow nutrition advice — along the lines of ‘You should improve your diet’ or ‘You should eat better.’ And that becomes very difficult for a patient to understand and implement,” she said, adding that a food prescription is a way to “fill the gap” between a doctor’s recommendations and the actual food customers will take home.
The program also involves using Kroger’s OptUP mobile app, which scores food items in the store based on their nutritional value and lets users track their progress when it comes to improving their diets over time.
Kroger joins a growing number of companies across the food industry making products and services that address everything from lifestyle choices to dietary habits to chronic illness. Meal kit-like services, such as those from Epicured, are another tactic to getting healthier to consumers’ homes, as is prepared meal delivery from virtual restaurants that focus on food as medicine.
Food prescriptions filled at grocery stores provide a unique and arguably more enticing introduction to the food-as-medicine concept because they can be tailored to an individual’s needs and preferences when it comes to food, cooking, and dietary preferences.
For now, Kroger Health is focused on diabetes patients but could eventually expand to include other conditions, such as cancer and heart disease. And one can easily envision a future where Kroger is able to use its muscle in the grocery delivery area to fulfill food prescriptions and deliver the items to patients who may not be able to leave the house due to illness.
Nor does the concept and Kroger Health have to be restricted to treating illness. Though rather a broad term, food as medicine can also be as much about preventative care as it is about treating existing illness and chronic disease. Kroger doesn’t yet offer prescriptions for those looking for more preventative food solutions. However, given the chain’s focus of late, which has included launching its own line of plant-based products and putting vertical farms in stores, that day is probably not too far off in the future.