Five questions with David Waters

Community Servings, a nonprofit provider of medically-tailored meals, recently announced that it has expanded by opening a center in Mansfield, Mass. CEO David Waters answered PBN’s questions about the program and the nonprofit’s expansion.

PBN: How can Rhode Islanders access Community Servings’ offerings?

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WATERS: Rhode Islanders can apply to receive Community Servings’ medically tailored meals with help from their health care provider or case manager. Eligibility is based on two things: a medical or behavioral health diagnosis, and the individual’s ability to maintain a healthy diet and independent lifestyle.

We partner with health care organizations in the Ocean State that share our mission of serving people who face the dual challenges of complex illness and nutrition insecurity. Integra Community Care Network and Providence Community Health Centers are two examples. They are seeing that the provision of medically tailored meals can truly improve health outcomes for their patients.

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We are excited to partner with more health care organizations in the future so that even more Rhode Islanders can access the health benefits of our services. Recently, we were fortunate to receive support from the CVS Health Foundation to help us expand our medically tailored meal program into Rhode Island.

PBN: What are medically tailored meals and how do they support patient health?

WATERS: Medically tailored meals are a nutrition intervention that can be used to treat, prevent or manage specific clinical conditions. Our clients receive a home delivery of fully prepared nutritious meals once a week. Meals are designed by a registered dietitian nutritionist, are tailored to treat a client’s specific chronic conditions, and can be further customized by dietary restriction.

Our in-house RDN and culinary teams collaborate to tailor meals that support the best possible health for people living with such illnesses as cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and heart failure, among other illnesses. We also provide our services to people who have limited mobility post-discharge from the hospital.

It’s also important to say that Community Servings really exists to serve the people whose health, according to the research, benefits the most from this intervention. These are often people who are living with one or more complex chronic illnesses. And these are people who have difficulty accessing healthy food independently and face daily living limitations that make it challenging to manage a complex diet.

PBN: Why did Community Servings expand to Mansfield, MA?

WATERS: Our goal is to help more people access the health benefits of our services. Earlier this year, we opened a satellite distribution center in Mansfield to help us do exactly that.

Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island are our fastest-growing service areas. These are the regions where we know there is significant need for the services we provide.

Operationally, the distribution center helps our delivery drivers reach Rhode Island much more effectively, and the increase in capacity will help us grow our service operations overall.

PBN: What are some obstacles people in MA and RI face when trying to access nutritious and healthy food?

WATERS: When people are living with complex illnesses and daily living limitations, one simple but very common obstacle is that preparing food independently just isn’t easy.

Many of our clients have difficulty standing for long time periods and difficulty grocery shopping. Sometimes the challenges relate to physical mobility. In most cases, the challenges relate to economic factors, too.

Additionally, when people have a diet-related illness, like chronic kidney disease, for example, they face the daunting complexity of searching for foods that are nutritionally appropriate, foods that will benefit their health.

This is where Community Servings comes in. We fully prepare five days’ worth of meals, so that clients don’t have to. We tailor meals with an understanding of appropriate dietary therapy by illness, so that clients don’t have to.

PBN: Aside from meal delivery, what other services does Community Servings offer?

WATERS: To address the unique health issues that children and pregnant individuals are facing, we recently introduced two highly customized medical diets. The Pediatric Health Diet is a foundational wellness diet for children with a diagnosis of overweight, obesity, prediabetes or hypertension. The Pregnancy Health Diet can help pregnant and postpartum people with such risk factors as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or obesity.

Everyone we serve can access nutrition counseling and education services from our in-house team of expert RDNs. The team is available by phone and in the languages our clients speak. RDNs often support clients when it comes to adapting meals for cultural familiarity and preparing medically tailored foods independently.

Last but not least is our volunteer program – a fun and accessible way for corporate teams, individuals and groups to engage in community service together and also play an integral role in Community Servings’ operations.

Our new distribution center in Mansfield hosts two volunteer shifts Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone interested in signing up can find more information on our website at www.servings.org.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com