Can a Meal Replacement Help Solve Hunger in America?

Backed by Nick Borja
Dallas, Texas
Medicine
DOI: 10.18258/9662
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About This Project

In the United States, hunger is commonplace. 42 million Americans struggle to get the healthy foods they need. We want to find a solution. This study will provide a convenient, nutrient-rich meal called Nosha to food pantry shoppers. The study will assess whether access to Nosha supports food security, protects resources, and contributes to the health of this at-risk population. Our findings may offer a new strategy towards closing America's widening nutrition gap.

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What is the context of this research?

One in seven Americans doesn't have reliable access to the food they need. Some simply can't afford the cost. Others don't have the time to cook. For those living in food deserts, healthy food just isn't within reach.

This food insecurity often leads individuals to consume inexpensive, highly-processed foods that are full of calories but devoid of nutritional value. As a result, they aren't getting the nutrients they need for health. Research consistently finds that food insecurity is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It's no wonder that the poorest Americans have a 62% higher risk of death compared to the wealthiest Americans.

The challenge is much bigger than fighting hunger; it's providing all Americans with nourishing food.

What is the significance of this project?

There are plenty of interventions that can alleviate food insecurity. Bringing grocery stores to food deserts, teaching how to shop and cook, and planting vegetable gardens can all help get healthy foods in the hands of those who need them most.

Unfortunately, these programs tend to be resource intensive and difficult to expand. Nosha offers a simpler solution.

Nosha is a nutrient-rich meal of organic vegetables, fruits and seeds. It arrives as a powder, and mixes easily in water, juice or nut milk. Moreover, Nosha can be stored at room temperature and stays fresh for over a year.

Nosha's nutritional benefits and convenience suggest it may be able to serve as a rapidly scalable solution to food insecurity.

What are the goals of the project?

The goal of this pilot study is to determine whether access to Nosha improves the food security of at-risk populations.

We will measure whether drinking Nosha helps visitors of a food pantry save time and money and experience fewer instances of hunger in their household.

We will also assess whether Nosha leads to a shift in dietary patterns, such as consumption of more fruits and vegetables and fewer highly-processed foods.

Finally, we will examine whether Nosha contributes to pantry client's overall health. Body mass index, energy levels, digestion, mood and alcohol misuse will all be quantified throughout the study.

These measures will help us be able to assess to what extent Nosha can help alleviate hunger and malnutrition in America.

Budget

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This study has a $20,000 budget that is being entirely funded by a non-profit Dallas food pantry through private donations. This budget will cover the production cost of Nosha meals, the labor cost for program implementation, and the administrative costs for conducting the study. We are not asking for financial contributions from members of experiment.com.

Rather than fundraise through experiment.com, we are using this platform to share our research efforts with the public in realtime. We hope this transparency creates space for dialogue as the study is being carried out. We believe the more we all participate, the stronger science becomes.

Endorsed by

As the crisis of chronic disease grows, it's evident that the underserved bear the greatest burden. This innovative project is exactly the type of creative energy needed to find better solutions. Providing access to high quality and nutritious meal replacements to those with low food security has amazing potential for identifying sustainable, practical solutions. I applaud Dr. Borja and his team in this endeavor!
Nick Borja and I attended UT Southwestern Medical Center during our general surgery residency. Inadequate nutrition and poor diet are the seeds that inevitably flourish to chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Many of these diseases can be prevented or successfully treated with lifestyle changes such as dietary choices. However, the availability of nutritious food is not ubiquitous. Nick's proposed solution - access to a nutritious meal - can potentially help alleviate this enormous problem.

Flag iconProject Timeline

Participants will be recruited over two weeks from the Dallas food pantry. We will collect demographic information and assess dietary habits, food security and general health. Participants will then begin collecting their Nosha meals from the food pantry on a biweekly basis. The comprehensive health and financial surveys will be repeated at the 6-week midpoint and at the 12-week conclusion of the study.

Sep 05, 2017

Project Launched

Sep 11, 2017

Enroll 50 food pantry clients in study

Oct 23, 2017

Conduct midterm surveys for all study participants

Dec 04, 2017

Conduct final survey for all study participants

Jan 15, 2018

Complete data analysis, release preliminary results

Meet the Team

Nick Borja
Nick Borja
Doctor

Affiliates

Access Physicians
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Nick Borja

As the son of a doctor and a nurse, I grew up keenly aware of how many of us are held captive by chronic disease. After graduating from Williams College, I embarked on a career in medicine, eager to make a difference in patients’ lives. I received my M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to complete three years of general surgery residency at UT Southwestern/Parkland Hospital. My interest in treating cancer led me to accept an NIH fellowship in a molecular biology lab. There I spent two years researching cancer genetics and the mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance. During this time, I discovered the enormous impact that diet can have on health and disease. Since then, I have become focused on curing disease through prevention. To that end, I founded Nosha, a nutrition startup that creates products and content to help every person embrace a life of health. I continue to practice medicine in Dallas, Texas.

Additional Information

The feasibility of this study was explored through a smaller pilot conducted in collaboration with a local Dallas food pantry from Nov. 2016 - Feb. 2017. In this program, 10 food pantry clients received a daily supply of Nosha meals and reported their experiences to on a bi-weekly basis. Participants described a number of health and financial benefits provided by Nosha that we are now seeking to systematically report.


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