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, a food supply infrastructure stressed by the pandemic, and societal and systemic inequities – including structural racism – which dates back generations and persists today. Throughout our food system – from production to consumption – Black, Latino, American Indian, and People of Color encounter systemic barriers, from land ownership and well-paying and meaningful food and farm work, to food access, the ability to afford food, and positive health outcomes. While emergency food assistance is critical, especially during the COVID crisis, it is not a long-term solution to hunger and to the other the food system challenges facing our state.
Creating a more equitable and resilient local food system 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. It requires changes in policies, practices, resource flows, relationships, and power dynamics, and will also require addressing the structures in the food system that create and reinforce inequities among people of color.
Strategic Approach and Current Focus
Building on our experience and understanding of the food system, we have identified four primary areas of investment to help create a more equitable and resilient food system, where everyone in North Carolina has access to healthy food. We are working with a growing cadre of people and organizations across the state – from supporting infrastructure development to identifying and advocating for policy and systems change. Community-rooted solutions are valued and prioritized.
Specifically, our objectives are to:
- Build broad support to elevate healthy, equitable food access as a state priority
- Strengthen community-based efforts to lead 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, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC), and school meals
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food availability and the food system are wide-reaching and highlight existing inequities. Food insecurity is on the rise. Food banks and pantries are experiencing record demand. 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 are valiantly meeting – demand to feed students and their families, overcoming nearly insurmountable challenges to do so.
The mass disruption of the COVID-19 crisis and the reckoning with structural racism has led to increased awareness and attention to the inequities in our food system. With this comes the chance to rethink the best approaches to build a more equitable and 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 and address disparities in health, wealth, and opportunity that disproportionally affect Black, Latino, American Indian, and People of Color, as well as communities
- Broaden racial equity training and coaching for institutions in the food system
- North Carolina Alliance for Health
- 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.