Robert T. Jones is the founder and CEO of The Roots Food Foundation. The Roots Food Foundation brings unprocessed, clean-label food products to those in need, in an effort to improve health and wellness for people while reducing the cost of healthcare for all.
We talked to Robert about his background, passion for farming, his thoughts on wellness, and the mission behind his company.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company:
Robert is the founder and CEO of Roots Food Group, as well as a Chairman on the board of Roots Food Foundation. The Roots Food Group is the for-profit side of the business, offering medically tailored meals to those who are prescribed. On the other end of the spectrum is Roots Food Foundation, which is a private nonprofit philanthropy that donates one meal to an underserved community for every ten meals sold at Roots Food Group.
Robert is a farmer by trade and affiliation, and has been a part of the food industry for the majority of his career.
The foundation of The Roots Food Group and Roots Food Foundation is that food is medicine. Food should be treated as medicine in such a way that it is prescribed and covered by health insurance in an effort to combat chronic disease.
What inspired you to get involved in food as healthcare and wellness?
In 2015, Mr. Jones and Roots Food Foundation signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the American Diabetes Association. Their partnership resulted in diabetic recipes being converted into actual products. The ADA educated Robert on the idea of food being medicine and needing a large stake in healthcare.
Furthermore, he learned about the vast problems of chronic disease that many Americans face, due to a lack of access to good, nutritious foods. Being in the food business, Jones saw this as an opportunity to change the way people eat. Using food as a prescribed benefit could have the power to change the trajectory of chronic diseases.
“Cheap food created a very expensive problem – the cost of healthcare and the health and wellness of our country.” Robert believes that “food is poison” and that “food is medicine.”
He explains that processed food is not actual food. Processed food has contributed to the demise of health for the vast majority of the country, due to it being the only accessible and affordable option for many people.
The vast majority of the nation has some kind of problem with a chronic disease.
Robert describes Roots Food Group as a pharmaceutical company, with broccoli being the prescription. Which is now a covered benefit.
Can you talk a little more about Food as Medicine in the National Landscape?
There has been large momentum in space to change things within the healthcare industry, especially involving food quality and nutrition.
For the first time in fifty years, the White House is holding a hunger, nutrition, and healthcare conference in September 2022 to decide how they can move forward and address these problems. Many noteworthy companies are participating in this conference to provide their insights and offer up opportunities to the Biden administration, Congress, and others to create essential changes at a government level.
Robert himself has participated in regional meetings where he has partaken in these conversations of change. Jones will be at the national conference in September to garner insight, directions, products, and overall direction from people in the healthcare, wellness, and food space.
What is your experience with gardening and growing your own food?
As mentioned, Mr. Jones is a farmer by trade. His family had farms growing up that he would help manage. Robert explains that his first real job was wheeling around vegetables in a red wagon selling tomatoes, avocados, tomatoes, and peaches from his family farm.
His childhood influenced his passions, as he later went on to study Farm Agriculture and Management at California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo.
“When I was introduced too Gardenuity and met the Donna I knew we needed to work together. Research shows that when people garden and grow their own herbs and veggies they make more conscious decisions about the food they consume.” Robert Jones
Can you explain a little bit about your upcoming study on people with type 2 diabetes?
The Department of California Health Services completed a three-year case study of the effects of prescribing medically tailored meals. They were able to have huge successes relative to health and wellness, as well as financial ROI .
Their case study produced a 32% reduction in net health care cost, a 63% reduction in readmissions to hospital, a 50% increase in medical adherence, and a 97% stabilization in food security.
All of this was done by providing medically tailored meals with people in chronic conditions.
This study has been the catalyst for medically tailored meals to be insured statewide in California for the Medicaid population of 14 million people.
A single prescription is 2 meals a day, 7 days a week, for 12 weeks. This prescription is completely free of charge for patients, and Roots Food Group provides 60% of those meals to California citizens. Plus every participant will start the journey with a Gardenuity garden- the idea “Plant, Grow, Eat and Repeat.”
There is federal legislation pending, HR-5370, which is a bill that makes medically tailored meals available nationwide. It is a huge accomplishment as the bill is bipartisan from authorship and sponsorship, as well as widely supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and in the Senate.
We love and know, without a doubt, that Robert is doing something that can change the world. Read more about Roots Food Group and Roots Food Foundation, here.