Minneapolis-based Launch My Health is partnering with employers to ‘bring food-is-medicine to the masses’ – Star Tribune

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On a trial run of a new workplace wellness benefit run by Launch My Health, a few dozen employees at Minneapolis-based furniture retailer Room & Board were offered personal nutrition coaching.

More than 100 wanted in.

“We’re a company of 1,100, so that’s pretty significant for us, and we’re hoping to do something on a broader scale,” said Skye Seesz, wellness manager at Room & Board. “So far the results have been great. We really appreciated the ‘food is medicine’ approach, and that they looked at food as nourishing and enjoyable.”

Launch My Health is gaining traction with its blend of virtual dietician consultations and on-demand nutrition and cooking classes that break down the basics, including knife skills and food prep, to make healthy eating more accessible. More than 60 companies, enormous and small, around the country now use the wellness platform, and all that have signed up so far have stayed on.

“We focused on employers because they really are the way to bring the food-is-medicine movement to the masses,” said Launch My Health founder and CEO Brenda Navin. “And employers have a very vested interest in having healthy, happy employees.”

Dozens of companies offer similar virtual platforms with on-demand videos and services in the rapidly growing workplace wellness space that can deliver therapy, meditation, virtual strength training and other personal health benefits to employees.

Navin though saw a void when it came to food and nutrition: pairing personalized nutrition advice with the skills needed to make healthy foods taste good. Her emphasis on “food is medicine,” rather than food “as” medicine — the more commonly used phrase — reflects a desire to instill proactive habits rather than prescriptive diets for long-lasting benefits.

“If I say, let’s cook a healthy meal tonight, most people are going to think it will taste like cardboard,” she said. “It has a negative connotation to it. And I wanted to change that conversation.”

Navin founded the Minneapolis-based business in 2021 after two decades in health care, including time as system director for health and wellbeing at M Health Fairview. The registered dietician wanted to have a greater impact on food choices and nutrition-related health outcomes, and a host of personal difficulties on top of the pandemic — a divorce, a mother with dementia and father with recurring cancer — gave her the “now or never” moment.

“I decided I’m going to do this in a way that is scalable, it’s accessible, and it’s fun,” she said. “The light bulb moments that people have, and how it changes their eating patterns, is amazing.”

There has long been a disconnect between the businesses of food and health care, despite the growing prevalence of diet-based diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and some cancers. The food industry is awash with products boosting health-and-wellness claims — some backed by rigorous science, others not — while general health care practitioners tend to give broad advice when it comes to nutrition and diet.

“Health care is an appropriately cautious industry,” said Frank Jaskulke, vice president of innovation at Minnesota health care trade group Medical Alley. “But the opportunities are significant.”

With more tools like meal-planning apps and mountains of nutrition advice online, consumers are more empowered to demand a proactive and personalized approach to diet and nutrition rather than responding to chronic diseases or being told to make “lifestyle changes.”

“Consumers of health care and insurance have a lot of influence,” Jaskulke said. “Consumer power is driving that positive change.”

Last year, Launch My Health videos had more than a million views in total.

“One of the biggest stressors people have is, ‘What’s for dinner?” Navin said. “We’re teaching skills so that you can go open up your refrigerator and figure out what’s for dinner just by looking at it.”

Navin said revenue tripled from 2022 to 2023 and continues to grow rapidly. Her primary focus is on adding more businesses to her roster, however.

“With the amount of solutions that are out there, it’s just a hurdle to get through the noise of it all,” she said.

Launch My Helath started the year with a goal to hit 50 companies but had 64 by February.

“I might be adjusting that goal.”

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