Meet the Nurse Entrepreneur Connecting Medically Tailored Meals to Patients in Need
In 2017, a reporter asked Kwamane Liddell where he saw himself in 10 years. Liddell was the nursing supervisor at a St. Louis hospital and just named to the local business journal’s “30 under 30” list of rising stars.
His response? “Leading a healthcare organization that uses technology to make equitable care and education available to all populations.”
Only five years later, Liddell does just that. He is an Aspen Institute Fellow, a Johnson & Johnson JLABS innovator, an award-winning health equity advocate and the founder of Nutrible, a web-based app that gives providers the ability to address food insecurity and order meals tailored to patients’ unique nutritional needs, much like they would prescribe medicine.
“With Nutrible, we help nurses connect patients with diagnosis-based food delivered to their homes as soon as they are discharged from participating hospitals, rehabs, and other healthcare settings,” says Liddell, who holds degrees in nursing, law and health administration. “We believe food should be a core piece of any medical diagnosis and treatment plan and as accessible as medicine.”
Patients identified as Nutrible candidates may be provided with sign up materials in their admission packet, or a tablet to have their first virtual dietician meeting while they’re admitted. A web app allows patients to place orders directly, and upon discharge, receive 12 weeks of medically-tailored meals delivered straight to their home.
Medically tailored meals from Nutrible
Inspired by the power and impact of nurses
As a child growing up on the west side of Chicago, a favorite uncle had a stroke. Liddell still remembers the care a nurse took to explain the situation to his family, and the way she described how behaviors and habits impact our health. Later, a high school summer job in housekeeping at Loyola University Medical Center cemented Liddell’s nursing career path.
“I had an opportunity to see nurses impact patients through their interaction,” he says. “I saw the importance of what nurses do – even the smallest things like getting the patient a blanket or moving a cup of water a little bit closer. I can’t describe the feeling, but I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”
Creating a model for culinary care that drives more equitable health outcomes
The first Black male to graduate from Southern Illinois University College of Nursing, Liddell worked in two very busy hospitals located near each other, but with vastly different resources. The hospital serving a primarily indigent and culturally diverse community struggled with inadequate staff and equipment, and community resources for high quality food were sparse. Liddell saw firsthand what happened to patients when they left the hospital without access to the right food.
“Thirty percent of hospitalized patients are malnourished, making them 50 percent more likely to be readmitted or die within 100 days post-discharge,” he says. “I watched people who looked like me die from preventable things like the inability to access food that could extend their lives and improve their well-being.”
Food insecurity in the United States averages 10.5 percent, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Among racial/ethnic minority groups, the numbers are twice as high. When most people think about food insecurity, they focus on economic barriers. But less than half of senior citizens classified by the USDA as food insecure live below the poverty line. Instead, they suffer from food insecurity caused by geography or mobility issues.
“Doctors write prescriptions for medicine, but the most vulnerable patients are left on their own after discharge to find the food they need for their health – and many can’t,” because they lack transportation or access to grocery stores, he says.
This inequity inspired Liddell to explore healthcare’s systemic challenges through a law degree, to innovate as a nurse entrepreneur and build technology that connects the local healthcare and grocery systems in a way that makes it easy for sick people to access food that aligns with their medical and cultural needs.
He created Nutrible, an all-in-one platform that allows healthcare providers to connect patients with registered dieticians who create affordable, personalized, medically tailored meals. Nutrible also partners with a variety of grocery delivery options, and dieticians work with patients to help them purchase the right foods online or find a local food bank. For Medicare patients, the services are 100% free with no copayments or coinsurance.
The Nutrible warehouse
Nutrible is primarily available in California, and expanded partnerships with insurers is next on the horizon, which is key to expanding Nutrible’s impact to more patients.
Nurses have the patient trust to make a difference, Liddel says, and in leveraging curiosity, innovation and experience, nurse-driven solutions can have a transformative impact.
“People want our ideas,” says Liddell. “They want to know what we think as nurses. If you see a program involving healthcare, get involved. Ask questions, listen and be heard.”
To learn more, visit www.nutrible.org.