For many of us, food drives are winter activities: helping our
communities to enjoy a special meal during the holidays, and keeping food on
the table when it’s cold outside. What so many don’t realize, however, is that
summer is actually a more difficult time for families dealing with food
insecurity. A decrease in donations, compounded with kids being out of school
and not receiving free/reduced breakfast and lunch, makes summer a tougher time
for families in need.
According to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s 2017
Hunger in Rhode Island Report, the prevalence of hunger in
Rhode Island is at an all-time high. Making matters more difficult, Congress is
planning to take away tens of billions of dollars from safety-net programs,
including vital health and nutrition programs. The Rhode Island Community Food
Bank and its network of member agencies are operating near capacity, serving
57,000 people each month, and will have a difficult time compensating for major
cuts to federal nutrition programs. This is a huge problem at any time of the
year – but particularly in July and August.
Like many other local companies, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of
Rhode Island (BCBSRI) is acutely aware of this issue, and we are working hard
to improve food security across the state. Knowing you can reliably feed your
family a healthy meal is critical to both physical and mental well-being, so we
have focused our philanthropy and partnerships on under-resourced communities,
as food insecurity is a direct result of poverty and limited (or no) access to
necessary resources. We’ve partnered with several organizations across the
state that are helping to meet this need and fill the widening gaps related to
poverty and hunger:
– It is widely known that there are strong links between food insecurity and
obesity. In under-served communities there is often a lack of access of healthy
food and an increased access to fast food – this is known as a food swamp. When
parents and guardians feel that they have no other options but to choose fast
food, children develop unhealthy habits and grow up unaware of how these
choices are affecting their health. The Pawtucket
YMCA prioritizes this issue by providing healthy dinners nightly to
members of the community. BCBSRI has granted Pawtucket YMCA with a BlueAngel
Community Health Grant to support the positive
impact this program has on this community.
McAuley House –
For 10 years and counting, BCBSRI has partnered with McAuley House
to sponsor the
“Lunch on Us at McAuley House”. Each year, our gift covers
the cost of more than 5,000 nutritious breakfast, lunch and takeaway dinner
meals, ensuring the most vulnerable women, children and men in our community
have access to nourishing food. The McAuley House uses food service to meet
basic needs within the community, but also as a way to get folks in the door to
provide other social services that can improve their quality of life.
Rhode Island Public
Health Institute – Rhode
Island Public Health Institute’s “Rhody Food on the Move”
mobile food market addresses the lack of access to affordable, healthy food in
underserved neighborhoods throughout the state, while helping to meet a growing
demand for local food and a sustainable local food system. The mobile market
brings fresh fruits and vegetables directly to community centers and spaces in
these neighborhoods. BCBSRI provided a BlueAngel
Community Health Grant to help expand the markets
to additional schools and family housing sites and helped fund evening markets
to reach working parents.
Rhode Island Community
Food Bank – BCBSRI has been partnering with the Rhode Island Community Food
Bank for over 20 years – through food drives, volunteering and more.
Their mission is to improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders by
advancing solutions to the problem of hunger through compassion, fostering
health, innovation, collaboration and accountability. They are at the epicenter
of improving food insecurity within the state and are making strides to
alleviate this severe need.
Farm Fresh Rhode
Island – Farm
Fresh Rhode Island has a mission to grow a local food
system that values the environment, health, and quality of life of the farmers
and eaters in our region, and BCBSRI has been a proud partner since the
organization launched in 2004. We awarded Farm Fresh Rhode Island with a BlueAngel
Community Health Grant for its Healthy Families
program, which provides free nutrition education to low-income families and
incentives for families receiving nutrition assistance vouchers that can be
redeemed for fresh, local produce.
Rhode Island’s Summer
Food Service Program – We’re also a big supporter
of the state’s Summer
Food Service Program, as this program solely
focuses on the challenges families who are economically damaged or stressed
when school lets out for summer. They offer this program at a variety of parks
and recreations sites in almost every community across the state, in areas
where children typically congregate during the summer season. Kids are able to
play games, make new friends, and go home with a full and satisfied tummy.
BCBSRI has supported this program through marketing materials, funding, and
additional promotion on its social channels and blog.
As the prevalence of
hunger across the state and country continues to worsen, it’s important to
further expand existing programs and implement new ones. This summer, we hope
Rhode Islanders join us in setting the table and help others receive support
and basic nutritional needs for healthy living.