News Digest: July 11, 2024

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Updates from the Medicaid Food Security Network 

Leadership Changes at the MFSN


We are saddened by the news that Benefits Data Trust, one of the MFSN’s co-designer organizations and allies from the start, has regretfully announced its closure after 20 years of impactful service. Founded on the principle that access to benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, and housing assistance can significantly improve quality of life, BDT has served countless individuals across the country by streamlining application processes, providing personalized support, and advocating for systemic improvements. We are actively working with BDT to retain some of BDT’s valuable resources. We have been given permission to house BDT’s playbook, “Data Sharing to Build Effective and Efficient Benefits Systems” as well as their SNAP-focused report, “Data Coordination at SNAP and Medicaid Agencies” on the MFSN website.  We especially want to acknowledge the impactful contributions of BDT’s Ki’i Powell, Jamila Mclean, and Julian Xie in standing up the structure, resources, and subject matter expertise of the Medicaid Food Security Network. 


We also want to acknowledge transitions on the MFSN Steering Committee: Much gratitude to Kelly Horton, previous Interim President and Chief Program Officer at FRAC and Umailla Naeem Fatima, Health Policy Analyst at UnidosUS. These talented individuals contributed invaluable thought partnership as MFSN Steering Committee members, especially through their contributions to our Promising Strategies guiding document. We’re delighted to welcome Hannah Garelick, Healthy Policy Analyst, Policy and Advocacy at UnidosUS to the Steering Committee, and are looking forward to identifying Kelly’s replacement at FRAC. 


Share Our Strength has also been going through some programmatic and staffing shifts. Since the pandemic, we have added new strategies that support ending child hunger, including connecting families to SNAP and WIC, cross-benefits integration, and implementing exciting new summer meal policy wins. Share Our Strength recently shifted its investments and staffing structure to coincide with organizational priorities, and as a result we are thanking both Laura Cornwell and Audrey Immel for their tremendous contributions to Share Our Strength’s anti-hunger work and for helping us bring the Medicaid Food Security Network to life. Share Our Strength recently welcomed Elena Rees as Manager, Benefits Integration, and going forward, she will be supporting the Medicaid Food Security Network. 


While June was a time of transition for many organizations, and many have been impacted by tough financial and business decisions, we want to restate our dedication to the work of the MFSN. The rich resources below speak volumes to the depth and breadth of the important work ahead for this Network!


Signed, Co-Designers



Highlights and New Resources

Feature Story

Transforming Lives: How Community Health Workers, Promotoras, and Health Representatives Address Food Insecurity

By Alejandra Cabrera, MPH, and Kathryn Jantz, MSW, MPH


Picture being an adolescent with significant behavioral health challenges and poor dental health, making it difficult to eat properly and consume the appropriate level of nutrients needed to continue to grow. Now, add the complication of needing to take medication that causes nausea if not taken with food. This is the reality for Dani (name changed for anonymity), a teenager in Massachusetts. Dani is already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, but finds that the funds simply aren’t enough to address their nutritional needs – a challenge compounded by the need for soft, palatable food and a lack of necessary kitchen appliances, such as a blender, to prepare suitable meals. This fragile situation puts Dani at risk for worsening health issues due to inadequate nutrition.


A Dedicated Community Health Worker Steps in to Help


Enter Emma Goulet, a dedicated Community Health Worker (CHW) at Community Care Cooperative (C3), an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) that leverages the collective strengths of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to improve the health and wellness of the members they serve. As a CHW for one of C3’s Care Management programs, Emma’s role focuses on supporting Medicaid enrollees during the critical two months following their discharge from a psychiatric hospital stay.


As part of her intake process, Emma conducted a screening to talk with Dani about their social circumstances, and in that conversation, she discovered that Dani was experiencing food insecurity. Emma referred Dani for nutrition services through the Massachusetts Flexible Service program (Community Care Cooperative Flexible Services Program Page), a program authorized by the Massachusetts Medicaid 1115 demonstration waiver that allows healthcare organizations to provide direct nutrition and housing services to its members. Through this program, Dani received kitchen supplies, including a blender, and grocery vouchers to supplement their SNAP benefits. To learn more about other state-based, Medicaid-funded food programs, visit the Medicaid Food Security Network Policy Dashboard.


But Emma didn’t stop there. Understanding the broader needs of her clients, she started a utility and clothing drive within her community. The response was overwhelmingly positive, allowing her to acquire an ice cream maker for Dani, which helped them prepare more palatable foods, making eating easier and more enjoyable.


Emma’s professional commitment extends beyond referrals and donations. She supports her clients by accompanying them to their first outpatient therapy appointments, visiting food pantries, and helping them complete SNAP applications, as well as connecting to other benefits and community resources. For those unable to complete SNAP applications independently, she provides telephonic consent to complete them on their behalf. Each application process, she notes, takes between ten minutes (if she fills it out) and thirty minutes (if the client does).


The Power of Community Health Workers 


During the two months she works with her clients, Emma is usually able to follow the SNAP application process through to activated benefits. While SNAP provides an important foundation for increasing food stability, it often does not cover a household’s entire food costs, particularly for teenagers with high caloric needs. As an expert in community resources, she knows how to help her clients navigate these resources. For example, she knows which food pantries require proof of residency and income, which can be challenging for her clients to provide, and which ones are more flexible.


Emma’s story is a testament to the vital role of Community Health Workers, Promotoras, and Community Health Representatives (CHW/P/Rs) nationwide in addressing food insecurity among children and families. Every CHW/P/R we’ve had the honor of connecting with in writing this article showcased the power of a community-based workforce with local knowledge, lived experience, and the ability to cultivate trust within their communities to address their clients’ social and health needs. Recognizing this, the Medicaid Food Security Network has included Community Health Worker funding as an important strategy to address food in our Promising Strategies document.


Yvonda Carcini, a CHW at Health Net of West Michigan that the MFSN also connected with, recounted an instance where a homebound client who lacked access to food expressed gratitude for ensuring she had sustainable food delivery services. Yvonda emphasized that “no one should be stressed out about not having food in their fridge.” Similarly, Sarybet Gonzalez, another CHW at Health Net of West Michigan, shared the story of a client who recently lost his sight and struggled with navigating the process of applying for SNAP. By assisting him in accessing food delivery services and supporting him through benefit applications, Sarybet felt a deep sense of pride in supporting him through his challenges.


Medicaid Options for Financing Community Health Workers


Emma’s work is funded by Massachusetts Medicaid which enables Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations to support CHWs as part of primary care teams as well as through dedicated care management teams that support patients with specific health conditions.  Learn more about Medicaid ACOs by visiting the Center for Health Care Strategies Accountable Care Organization Resource Center


According to the Kaiser Family Foundation tracker of Community Health Worker policies, 29 states allow Medicaid payment for Community Health Worker services. Since Medicaid programs are administered by individual states, there are a variety of ways in which Medicaid programs can support the CHW role. States have many policy pathways to financially support CHWs. Those include section 1115 waivers, State Plan Amendments, the Medicaid Managed Care rule (which enables states to permit MCOs to categorize CHW as as services costs or to implement In Lieu of Services) and other options. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the financing approaches we encountered in our interviews and research: 


  • Pay for Team-Based Primary Care that includes CHWs:  Many states have financing models to support whole-person primary care. Often these financing approaches support care teams that include members such as nurses, CHWs, peer recovery coaches, and family partners in addition to the primary care provider. Massachusetts Medicaid (MassHealth) implemented a primary care sub-capitation model in 2023, to pay primary care providers a per-member-per-month rate rather than reimbursing providers for patient visits and services. With a goal to address health equity, this approach can incentivize the inclusion of CHWs as part of the primary care team (more information can be found in this Milbank Memorial Fund article).

  • Pay for Care Management supports that include CHWs: Many states’ Medicaid Managed Care Programs include funding mechanisms for complex care management or enhanced care coordination. These programs engage nurses, social workers, and CHWs to provide intensive health care and social supports for enrollees with complex physical and/or behavioral health conditions as well as those who need transitional care after hospitalization. Emma’s role is funded through this type of program. 

  • Pay Fee For Service for Community Health Workers: Some states allow CHWs to bill fee-for-service, meaning that for certain populations and certain activities, CHWs can  bill directly just like a healthcare provider would submit a claim for a visit. States may have different rules around this reimbursement such as requiring that CHW care is provided under the supervision of a Medicaid-enrolled medical professional.


Challenges for Medicaid-funded Community Health Workers


While Emma’s story showcases the profound impact of CHWs, these interviews also highlight the challenges and lessons from various states’ experiences with Medicaid reimbursement for CHW services:


Administrative Burden


Organizations that offer CHW services that are not existing Medicaid providers face significant barriers in becoming CHWs. Two strategies that seem to reduce the administrative burden are (1) providing flexible funding and (2) providing onboarding support. 


  • Flexible Funding: Prior authorizations and significant documentation needed for billing can hinder the sustainability of Medicaid-funded CHWs. Massachusetts’ per member per month payment model has allowed CHWs like Emma to operate effectively and efficiently without these constraints. 
  • Onboarding support: Health Net of West Michigan reported that Michigan’s step-by-step instructions including PDFs, videos, and pictures are helpful guides to support their organization in becoming a Medicaid billing entity. In states with 1115 waivers, this onboarding support can even include funds that go directly to clinics to support systems changes, access to technical assistance resources and support in developing contracts with MCOs.




Adequate reimbursement can be a challenge to developing and retaining a CHW workforce that is able to be serving individuals in the community. Two specific challenges were elevated:


  • Hiring and maintaining high-quality community health workers: One interviewee noted that while the CHW/P/R role is ideal for someone in their early twenties, the salary is not sufficient to support a family. Pragmatically, we know that it is challenging, if not impossible, to effectively help someone else navigate their food insecurity when you are currently experiencing food insecurity as well. 
  • Reimbursing for travel time and costs: Travel policies need to align with remote and community-based work. One CHW shared that their travel policy is based on distance from the organization’s office, but she was hired to work remotely, and so this model doesn’t accurately reflect the distances she is actually traveling. On her salary, the costs of driving to meet clients can be prohibitive. 


The Path Forward


In developing this blog post, we heard numerous stories of CHWs building critical relationships and supporting individuals in countless ways, including addressing food needs. Our research also highlights the critical need to ensure that emerging Medicaid CHW funding and policies are designed in a way that supports community-based CHW programs.


To stay connected, join us for our next MFSN quarterly convening, where we’ll dive deep into this critical topic. To learn more about CHW/P/Rs and connect with CHW/P/R organizations in your area, visit the National Association of Community Health Workers. For insight into how states have integrated CHW provisions into their Medicaid contracts, explore the MFSN Policy Dashboard.   


Policy Updates


Rhode Island Submits 1115 Waiver Addendum Request for HRSN Services 

Rhode Island has submitted to CMS an addendum to its extension request for its section 1115 Rhode Island Comprehensive Demonstration. As part of its goal to improve health equity, the addendum requests new authority for nutrition services. Proposed nutrition services include healthy food prescriptions and medically tailored meals. View the addendum here.



Recommended Reading


Report from Center for Children & Families (CCF) at Georgetown University

State Use of Section 1115 Demonstrations to Support the Health-Related Social Needs of Pregnant and Postpartum Women, Infants, and Young Children

Allexa Gardner, Tanesha Mondestin, Nancy Kaneb


Article in JAMA Health Forum

New Federal Program to Address Child Hunger Begins This Summer

Sara N. Bleich, PhD; Kaitlyn Camacho Orona, MPH; Lindsey Turner, PhD


New Policy Resource from Center for Health Care Strategies

Using In Lieu of Services to Address Health-Related Social Needs: Upshots from the Recent Federal Rule

Diana Crumley


New Tool from Center for Health Care Strategies

Designing a Health-Related Social Needs Strategy in Medicaid: Key Questions for States



Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Food is Medicine Coalition’s Accelerator Accepting Applications Through July 26th  


The Food is Medicine Coalition’s (FIMC) Accelerator is an initiative co-led by FIMC, Community Servings, God’s Love We Deliver, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School.


The goal of the Accelerator Program is to refine, replicate, and broadly scale the medically tailored meal (MTM) intervention to ensure that people living with severe, complex, and chronic illnesses have access to MTM, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Nonprofits apply to undergo a 12-month curriculum training program that teaches how to prepare and deliver the high-quality MTM intervention for their communities. Enrolled cohorts participate in a year of online, in-person, and web-based training on operational processes for starting their own MTM program, which includes instruction on everything from kitchen expansion to financial coaching, distribution, and compliance. Cohorts also receive policy assistance to explore state and regional contracting opportunities, as well as guidance for funding opportunities, particularly for vulnerable populations.


In its fifth year, the Accelerator has produced 13 new MTM providers with 4 more in the current cohort. Join this vibrant community of practice by applying now.


Food is Medicine Coalition Quarterly Meeting

July 11, 2024 4-5pm ET


Our Quarterly Meeting is coming up on July 11th from 4-5pm ET. FIMC quarterly meetings are the best place to stay current with policy, research, and upcoming events in the food is medicine space. Each meeting, we invite a special guest from the field to share of-the-moment information that is catalyzing new food is medicine innovation, policy, research and best practices. For July 11th, we will be joined by the Food & Society Team from The Aspen Institute to discuss their updated 2024 Food is Medicine Research Action Plan. The Quarterly Meetings are held the second Thursday of: January, April, July, & October. Attendees can register for the Quarterly Meeting series here.


Connecting Pediatricians with WIC through Data Sharing: A Conversation with USDA

July 26, 2024 


The American Academy of Pediatrics, Share Our Strength-No Kid Hungry, Children’s Hospital Association, and Food Research & Action Center have created a five-part webinar series, Building Pediatrician and Hospital System Capacity to Promote Food Security, that dives deeper into how pediatricians and other healthcare professionals can promote food security at the clinical, community, state, and national level. The series includes presentations from experts, a lived experience panel, an open discussion around WIC data sharing with USDA, and a presentation from USDA’s Dr. Caree Cotwright. Register for the webinar series here. For more information on the series, please visit Building Pediatrician Capacity to Address Food Insecurity (