Feeding America reports that more than 50 million Americans are hungry, with one in six adults and more than one in five children not having consistent access to food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that translates into 16.7 million children under the age of 18 in the United States that are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food for a healthy life. The effects of poor or limited access to nutrition can be long-lasting, especially for children, impacting not only their health but their physical and mental development, as well as their ability to perform well in school. Hungry children incur developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.
Combining these startling statistics with the potentially drastic effects this would have on our economy’s future workforce and the overall health of our communities, lead us to shift focus from our previous pillar area within Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) of Nutrition Education, to simply Nutrition. While equally important goals, HKHF now prioritizes partners and programs that provide direct access to food, assist in eliminating barriers to receiving food and address food security at multiple levels
More than 20 food banks and other key partners have already joined in the HKHF effort to help eliminate barriers to receiving food and target the needs of the hungry in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. With the help of our partners we estimate more than 28 million pounds of food will be distributed throughout our communities in 2014, impacting more than 433,000 adults and 285,000 children. Additionally, we are working to expanding this reach to our company’s newest health plan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, throughout 2014.
A few of our key partners to promote nutrition education are:
Illinois’ three key partners not only provide access to food for families plagued by food insecurity or residing in food deserts, but also broaden children’s understanding and education regarding nutrition. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois has partnered with the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC) , The Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) and the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB) to target and support the nutrition needs of the communities across the state.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico is partnering with a community based organization within each quadrant of the state to help reduce hunger and food insecurities. Our New Mexico partners helping to reduce childhood hunger include The Food Depot , The Community Pantry , Casa de Los Peregrinos and The Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico Inc.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Fresh Food Mobile Pantry, one of its key anti-hunger pilot programs, provides nutritious, fresh food to the 55 westernmost counties in the state. With the support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, the Regional Food Bank has been able to serve an additional 1,100 families per month as well as expanding its Nutrition Education program.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas supports 11 impactful programs through local food banks to positively support the health and wellness of children. These programs provide backpacks of weekend food for school children at risk of hunger; provide individuals, parents and school-aged children with the culinary skills necessary to make healthy food choices, serve warm meals in low-income neighborhoods, and much more. Some of our partners include the North Texas Food Bank , Houston Food Bank , San Antonio Food Bank , Wichita Falls Area Food Bank and El Pasoans Fighting Hunger.