Our goal within this priority area is that everyone in North Carolina has access to healthy food.
Too many people in our state don’t have access to the food they need. This is due in large part to forces beyond their immediate control, including poverty and societal and systemic inequities – inequities that are even more prevalent today as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. And in many cases, food that is accessible lacks adequate nutrition and does not support our local food economy.
Increasing access to healthy local food is central to individual and community well-being. It reduces food insecurity, improves health, promotes healthy child development, builds stronger communities, and supports economic development. Sustainably increasing access to healthy food requires changes in policies, practices, resource flows, relationships, and power dynamics. What is also required are shifts in deeply held beliefs and assumptions about people who face food insecurity.
Strategic Approach and Current Focus
Building on our experience and understanding of how the food system functions, we have identified areas of investment that can increase access to healthy food and reduce food insecurity. We are working to change policies and practices, develop and strengthen leadership and networks, and support community-rooted change efforts informed by people who are impacted by food insecurity.
Specifically, our objectives are to:
- Build broad support to elevate healthy food access as a state priority
- Build and strengthen community-based efforts to lead local food system transformation
- Expand institutional use of local healthy food as a driver of a more equitable food system
- Maximize the impact of federal programs that increase healthy food access
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food availability and the food system are wide-reaching. Food insecurity is on the rise. Food banks and pantries are experiencing record demand yet are also experiencing challenges responding. Farm and food workers in processing plants are at significant risk due to living and working conditions – impacting their health and their ability to provide food for others. Restaurants and hospitality closures and limitations have resulted in mass unemployment and severe impacts on the farms and farmers that service them. And school nutrition programs have seen – and valiantly met – demand to feed students and their families, overcoming nearly insurmountable challenges to do so.
This mass disruption has led to increased awareness and attention to food security and concern about the vulnerability of the industrialized food system. With this comes the chance to rethink the best approaches to build a more resilient local food system.
As such, we are currently supporting efforts to:
- Mobilize a broad network of stakeholders to improve healthy food access through the development of a shared policy agenda and advocacy
- Expand and strengthen local food councils throughout the state to lead policy and system change for a more equitable food system at all levels
- Bolster the infrastructure of the local food supply chain by building the capacity of, and collaboration between, food hubs
- Identify opportunities to improve the local administration of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women Infant and Children (WIC) to maximize participation
- Ensure that school nutrition programs have the resources they need to offer nutritious and delicious food, with a focus on farm to school expansion
- Develop a food system resilience plan to inform public and private investment of opportunities to strengthen the food system
- North Carolina Food Action Plan
- Center for Environmental Farming Systems
- Duke University World Food Policy Center
Director, Healthy Food
North Carolina Food Resiliency Plan Underway
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems and the Duke World Food Policy Center are analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the North Carolina food system. This analysis will inform recommendations aimed at improving food system resilience and mitigating existing disparities in health, wealth, and opportunity that disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and rural communities.
REPORT: Supporting Healthy Food Access in North Carolina
Foundation Comments on Federal Regulations in Support of Healthy Food Access in North Carolina
November 1, 2019 – Blue Cross NC Foundation formally responded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule to end the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility.