See All Expert Exchange Videos

Emily Brown

Free From Market Brings Food as Medicine Concept to KC


The transition from sick care to healthcare will take much work, but it will always be fueled by the industry recognizing the future and advantage of value-based care over volume-based care. For Emily Brown, CEO and Founder of Free From Market, once the industry started to shift to this paradigm, she was ready to bring the food as medicine concept to the forefront.

For many patients with chronic illnesses, the food they eat can be both a cause and a cure. Often, these folks are told to adjust their diet or risk further damage but are given no method or support to make that change. Free From Market and Brown have created a digital health service that fills this gap. “One in three Americans are impacted by a diet-related chronic condition—everything from diabetes, food allergies, gastrointestinal conditions, cancer, and more. Then one in four Americans live in a community where they don’t have access to the food that they need. This leaves many people sick and getting sicker. What an opportunity to impact many people in this country,” Brown said.

Brown has seen the effect and benefit of food as medicine in her own life before starting her company. “My daughters both have food allergies, and my father has diabetes and heart disease. At different times in our family, it has been an incredible challenge to avoid trigger foods and ingredients to protect my daughters and amazing the difference a lower sodium diet has made for my father,” Brown said. These changes have been an integral element of improved health, food security, and quality of life across three generations.

Brown sees this as being a significant element in the healthcare delivery system. “For us, this is about being fully integrated into the health care system, being included in the electronic health record and a part of the continuum of care for all,” Brown said. There also is a component of health equity behind this effort. For example, African American communities are commonly affected by food allergies, and the only real option for treatment is avoidance. But some communities don’t have access to stores where avoidance is possible, which can lead to prohibitive emergency care costs and hospitalization. This cycle can be devastating and is precisely why Brown is compelled to scale her company.

COVID created a unique proof of concept for Brown and her company's service model. “Free From Market wouldn’t have existed five years ago. The pandemic played a significant role in direct-to-consumer innovation and acceptance of shipped food, as well as the adoption of telehealth as a viable and more accessible service,” Brown said. The pandemic also emphasized health disparities across different communities and the critical role that proper nutrition and subsequent health and chronic conditions can play.

As a system, healthcare identifies that taking care of the patient before they get sick and supporting them beyond pharmaceuticals is crucial for their health and the cost of care they endure. Food as medicine is leaving behind the idea of treating the illness and moving to the concept of treating the person. The healthcare system can guide patients to a healthy lifestyle and solve systemic problems in the best way possible, one meal at a time.

More Expert Exchange Videos

A.J. Mellott, PhD

KC Stem Cell Startup Delivers Gift of Time to Industry

Continue Reading

Dr. Abdulbaki Agbas

KCU Professor Developing Innovative Test for Early Diagnosis of Neurodegenerative Disease

Continue Reading

Alexander G. Chiu, MD

KU Center for Health Innovation & Transformative Care Integrates Technology into the Art of Medicine

Continue Reading

Ashley Shaw, PhD, MPH

KU Medical Center Professor Addresses Brain Health Inequities, Seeks Change Through Community

Continue Reading

Asma Zaidi, PhD

KCU Researcher Pursues Neurodegeneration Breakthrough for Pediatric & Geriatric Patients

Continue Reading

Brian Flesner, DVM, MS, DACVIM

MU Veterinary Oncologist Advancing One Health with Novel Bone Cancer Treatment for Dogs

Continue Reading