Technology Innovation: Responding to White House Call to Action on Hunger and Nutrition

Judy Seybold
,
MS, RDN, LD, CLC
October 28, 2022
There is incredible opportunity for technology to support the White House's National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Alarmed by a public health crisis in which millions of Americans are afflicted with food insecurity and diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the Biden Administration is looking to both public and private sectors to improve access to healthy and affordable food.

Sifter is well-positioned to respond to the White House call to action. Founded on the premise that technology can offer an affordable, accessible path to “food as medicine,” Sifter has built digital solutions that help people shop for groceries while adhering to personal dietary needs and advice from their healthcare provider.

Accurate nutrition information

The National Strategy addresses the need for better consumer access to accurate, consistent nutrition information when grocery shopping online. According to research, online shopping platforms that require users to click through to nutrition information may be used less than platforms presenting nutrition information on the main product page (Olzenak et al. 2020). Food retailers are further challenged to provide clear and accurate allergen warnings on online product detail, which research has shown to be the least consistently provided product data (Pomeranz et al. 2022).

Sifter supports the call to prioritize accurate disclosure of standardized nutritional information, ingredients, and allergens to improve the safety and functionality of shopping online. Sifter’s proprietary methodology and automated technology enable the consistent delivery of necessary dietary information that has been accepted and validated by many health providers.  

Shopping for complex diets

The grocery shopping needs of the average American have evolved: more than 62% of consumers search for foods that meet special dietary needs such as allergens, food avoidances, medical diets, or environmental concerns. Food shopping technology must recognize the complex nature of most consumer diets to achieve the National Strategy goal of enabling "all people to easily make informed, healthy choices."

While many online shopping platforms allow consumers to search for foods that meet a single dietary or nutrition filter, traditional online food shopping does not consistently, effectively, or accurately support consumers with multi-variant lifestyles and health needs. Data from 32,476 Sifter users over a period of six months show the top five medical conditions shopped for include food avoidance, digestive issues, diabetes, heart health, and blood pressure (Sifter 2022). Within this data set, the top five foods and ingredients people avoid are gluten or wheat, dairy or milk, added sugars or corn syrup, lactose, and artificial colors (Sifter 2022).

Unlike other programs, Sifter technology filters—with precision and in a single search—multiple preferences (medical and health diets, food-medication interactions, lifestyle diets, allergens, religious diets, and responsible practices) on the same product. Making it easy to find foods suitable for complex diets encourages dietary adherence, and dietary variety leads to improved consumer health.

Sifter is in the process of integrating state and federal nutrition eligibility programs like WIC and SNAP into its technology. This will enable retailers, health insurers, and health providers to activate a shop-by-diet program that filters products for food assistance eligibility as well as thousands of dietary combinations. Helping consumers use their nutrition benefits more efficiently supports the National Strategy goal of giving Americans easier access to healthy food choices.

Tools for consumers and nutrition professionals

Modernized nutrition guidance and innovative tools improve the food system for all Americans. For consumers to enjoy a shopping experience that offers accurate, diet-compliant food discovery, online grocery platforms and in-store mobile tools must be designed to include up-to-date nutrition guidance by registered dietitians and health providers. Having nutrition professionals work in tandem with food retailers aligns with the National Strategy’s call to bolster access to and guidance from healthcare professionals, and it ensures that food retailers are prepared for emerging programs, like identifying medically tailored meals and food benefit cards.

Developed by registered dietitians and food science experts, Sifter's proprietary algorithms support standards of practice and mirror consultation with registered dietitians; they adhere to the latest scientific principles; and they are grounded in government regulations.

Nutrition as a Service

Leveraging nutrition-related technology, expanding opportunities for nutrition professionals across the food system, and fostering more collaboration between the public and private sectors all play an important role in meeting the challenges of the current public health crisis. Sifter’s Nutrition as a Service™ platform is designed for those that wish to offer or build a health program that becomes part of the solution. It's the type of best-practice innovation that can help meet the White House's ambitious goal of reducing hunger, reducing diet-related disease, and increasing healthy eating by 2030.

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