Food For Health
, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that provides home-delivered medically tailored meals to low-income individuals in southeastern Wisconsin, has announced a $15 million fundraising campaign to advance its mission of preventing and reversing diet-related disease through the "power of food."
The organization was launched in 2022 by the Dohmen Company Foundation
, as part of its new vision, “life without diet-related disease,” which refers to type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high-risk pregnancy and cardiovascular disease. Central to the foundation's strategy is the belief that food is a key preventative medical intervention, in some cases superior to pharmaceuticals and medical procedures that are often used as a band-aid fix rather than addressing the root cause of a chronic illness.
[caption id="attachment_569490" align="alignleft" width="502"]
Community leaders, donors and partners of Food For Health gathered at its headquarters for an event showcasing its programs.[/caption]
Dohmen provided the seed money for Food For Health, but the organization is now raising funds as it works to become a self-sustaining entity. The $15 million fundraising initiative was announced Tuesday during an event at Dohmen and Food For Health's new headquarters, located at 2007 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milwaukee's Halyard Park neighborhood. The funds will support Food For Health's goal of improving the health of 50,000 people over the next five years.
"Diet-related disease is no stranger to our backyard. It is the number one killer here in our beloved state of Wisconsin and more closely here in Milwaukee," said Kathy Koshgarian, president and chief executive officer of Food For Health. "So this is why we're on a mission. We're on a mission to reverse, manage and prevent diet-related disease through the first and only integrated, medically tailored meal program in the state of Wisconsin."
In addition to delivering ready-made nutritious meals, which are made at and distributed from Food For Health's production facility adjacent to its headquarters, the organization provides one-on-one health coaching, biometric screening and culinary, fitness and lifestyle classes at its "community health hub," located within its headquarters building.
Since the inception of Food For Health - launched originally as a meal delivery program early in the COVID-19 pandemic - eligible participants had to be referred by partner health care providers and insurers. Now, those who qualify can apply directly through the newly launched Direct Connect self-referral program, also announced at the event Tuesday. The idea behind the program is to expand access for individuals who are uninsured, underinsured or don't have a health care provider.
"We're out to democratize this program, to bring access to our most vulnerable who otherwise would not have access to it," said Rayna Andrews, executive director of advancement and engagement.
And to that end, Food For Health is making a push for financial support. Beyond monetary donations
, the organization is seeking sponsors for its community health hub, with naming sponsorship opportunities available for its headquarters building and food production facility. It's also in need of partners to support its workforce development program, which aims to hire people from the surrounding community to work at the food production facility. Employees receive training in the culinary arts and are paid a family-sustaining wage. Other ways to get involved include becoming a referral partner and volunteering time.
"People are dying prematurely and unfairly and it doesn't have to be that way," said Christa Shields, senior director of fund development at Food For Health, in announcing the fundraising campaign. "... We invite you to invest in us, we invite you to partner with us, we invite you to help us solve the diet-relate disease crisis and close the life expectancy gap."
Even in its early stages, Food For Health is producing positive results. Of the 86 people (all suffering from type 2 diabetes) who participated in its 12-month pilot program with Brookfield-based Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, 89% brought their A1C (measure of average blood sugar levels over the past three months) down to normal levels; 94% of participants brought their blood pressure to a normal range; and 80% lost weight, according to Kathy Koshgarian.
"Think of those outcomes and the quality of life within those individuals," she said.
In addition, each participant reduced health care consumption by 43% during the 12-month program.
"Here's really the additional point where we're able to change the paradigm in health care," said Koshgarian. "We've proven that food is medicine, food is the most efficacious intervention to eliminate and prevent diet-related disease."
Public and corporate support is not the only funding source Food For Health will be tapping. Profits from The Food Benefit Co.
, a social enterprise founded by Food For Health, will go toward the nonprofit’s mission. Once fully launched, The Food Benefit Co. will contract with companies to offer food and lifestyle programing as a health benefit to employees. Similar to Food For Health, participants will enjoy meal delivery to their homes and offices, health coaching, biometric screening and health and wellness education. And ultimately, the desired outcome for employers is increased productivity and decreased health insurance costs.
Food For Health's $15 million fundraising initiative follows two major investments by DCF in recent months, in support of its goal of reducing diet-related disease through food. One is a pledge of $75 million over seven years, marking the launch of Food For Health, The Food Benefit Co. and a national public awareness campaign to promote healthier food choices. The other investment is a $60 million impact investment fund to support five to 10 social enterprises developing food-related solutions to health outcomes.
DCF president and CEO Rachel Roller shared details on those initiatives in a recent interview with BizTimes associate editor Maredithe Meyer. Check out highlights of their conversation here.
[gallery td_select_gallery_slide="slide" size="large" ids="569489,569494,569493,569492,569491"]