Human Services

God’s Love We Deliver

Financial modeling for medically tailored meals

Since 1985, God’s Love We Deliver has provided meals to those in need in New York City. What started as a service for people living with HIV/AIDS is now a lifeline for people whose severe illness prevents them from cooking for themselves. Today, God’s Love delivers over 2.3 million medically tailored meals (MTM) a year.

Meeting such a large need requires a unique funding model. Karen Pearl, President & CEO of God’s Love, explained that the bulk of their budget is donations, about two-thirds. But a key piece of funding, about 20 percent, comes from reimbursement from healthcare payors. It took time and effort to secure this revenue stream.

“With the exception of HIV funding, there’s no standalone public funding for food for people who are sick, unlike seniors or school lunches,” said Pearl. “We work to change public policy to support people who are sick and can’t shop or cook for themselves.”

Pearl explained that partnering with healthcare began in 2005 but ramped up when New York state expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. God’s Love lobbied to include funding for providing MTM and succeeded. Now, programs such as Medicare/Medicaid, managed long-term care, and value-based payments provide reimbursement for meals.

“It was a major win. Healthcare participation has made our funding structure more sustainable,” Pearl said. “We are able to continue our commitment to never having a waiting list.”

In an effort to expand funding for nutritional support nationwide, God’s Love convenes the Food is Medicine Coalition, an association of nonprofits that provide MTM. The coalition advocates for public policy that supports access to food and nutrition services for people living with illness, and promotes research on how food and nutrition services can improve overall health and lower healthcare costs.

In addition, God’s Love and NFF are part of an accelerator that helps participants build new MTM programs and attract healthcare payors. Through NFF’s analysis, participants learn how to make more accurate projections about materials, budget, staff, and functional day-to-day needs. This prepares them to build a program and negotiate contracts that provide for the full cost of serving their clients.

Table lined with rows of black rectangle food trays filled with colorful food.
Medically tailored meals; photo by Rommel Demano

“NFF has helped increase capacity across all coalition members, not just us,” Pearl said. Pearl finds the modeling tool to be one of the most helpful aspects. “If you add a headcount or if food gets more expensive, a ‘what if’ tool is a great way to help you prepare for the unknown.”

God’s Love certainly got a big serving of “what if” when COVID-19 hit, when they received over 3,000 client referrals in March 2020 and delivered more than 230,000 more meals than usual in just five months. Because of their diversified revenue and diligent planning, they have been able to be a lifeline for New Yorkers in the crisis.

This story was written as part of NFF's 40th anniversary celebration.

[Lead image features Kendu Outlaw, a driver for God's Love; photo by Peter Pavlakis]

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