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Building Capacity for Healthy Food Prescriptions

 

A burgeoning approach to improve both food security and health lies within Healthy Food Prescription Programs – partnerships between community-based organizations and the health care sector that leverage the inextricable links between food, nutrition, and health. In these programs, patients are assessed for diet-related disease and/or food insecurity and prescribed a food-based intervention, delivered by local organizations working within their communities.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is excited to announce that 10 organizations have received multi-year funding as part of a commitment to grow the Food is Medicine movement across the state.

The funding is designed to strengthen partnerships between community-based nonprofit organizations and health care entities to strengthen and expand Healthy Food Prescription interventions that reduce food insecurity and improve health across racially and geographically diverse communities in North Carolina.

“The hope is that the support will also help better position the state's community-based nonprofits – with long-standing ties within, and commitment to, their community – as a partner of choice for health care organizations interested in Healthy Food Prescriptions for their patients,” said Valerie Stewart, Director, Leadership and Capacity Building.

"North Carolina is one of the top agricultural states in our country, yet one in eight North Carolina households are food insecure with even higher rates among Black, Latino, and American Indian families," said Merry Davis, Director, Healthy Food.

"Healthy Food Prescriptions are innovative and effective; they meet people where they are; and they create new pathways to achieving greater equity in food security, nutrition, and health and can support the local food system too. We think the 10 programs funded as part of this initiative hold great potential as models for communities across the state and beyond."

Collectively, these programs showcase the gambit of possibilities within Healthy Food Prescriptions, including:

  • Solutions for urban, rural, and Tribal communities.
  • An array of interventions ranging from vouchers and medically tailored meals to fresh food from local farms.
  • Diverse health care partnerships including health plans, health systems, community health centers, and more.

Each organization will receive $200,000 of funding over two years. In addition, they will also participate as part of a learning community to engage with, and learn from, one another. The 10 grantees include:

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP): The “Farm Fresh Produce Prescription” (FFPP) program provides wraparound support and weekly financial incentives for fresh, local fruits and vegetables from farmers markets and food boxes from farms. Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) is the primary health care partner, along with other smaller clinics, urgent care facilities, and other care managers. Eligible patients include western North Carolina residents who have, or are at risk, of developing a diet related disease or are eligible for a federal nutrition program like SNAP. The organization serves western North Carolina counties.

Conetoe Family Life Center, Inc.: Through their partnership with ECU Health Medical Center, they are providing increased awareness on how to treat and manage chronic health conditions with medical nutrition therapy. In a holistic approach, they supply customized food boxes from their farm through community-based stakeholders with wraparound health and wellness information and support, including garden boxes and plants. The organization serves Edgecombe County.

Feast Down East (FDE): Through a partnership with Novant Health, Feast Down East will fulfill healthy food Rx vouchers at their Local Motive Mobile Farmers’ Market in the Cape Fear region with seasonal foods procured from local farmers through the FDE Food Hub. Mobile Market locations include public housing communities, after school programs, community centers, and (beginning in 2023) various Novant and community health care clinics. FDE is also participating as a subcontractor for food in the Medicaid Healthy Opportunities Pilot with Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear. This organization is serving Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties.

Green Rural Redevelopment Organization (GRRO): Green Rural Redevelopment Organization supports healthy food boxes, medically tailored meals, and wraparound supports and services specifically for the Haliwa-Saponi tribal region in partnership with Twin County Rural Health Center. The organization is also a food vendor in the Medicaid Healthy Opportunities Pilot with Access East for the northeast region and serves Halifax and Warren counties.

Highland Neighborhood Association: Highland Neighborhood Association (HNA) collaborates with community partners to improve health in the neighborhood through obesity reduction while creating fresh food access. HNA supports a grab-and-go prepared community-based meal program run by RAMS (Really Amazing Meals with Soul) Kitchen in partnership with Kintegra Health and CaroMont Health. The organization serves Gaston County.

Hunger and Health Coalition: Through key partnerships with both the local health care system and local farm system, Hunger and Health Coalition provides services that include medically tailored healthy food boxes, nutrition education, and mobile delivery to vulnerable populations in northwest North Carolina. The organization is also a vendor in the Medicaid Healthy Opportunities Pilot with Impact Health, and serves Watauga County.

Loaves and Fishes Friendship Trays: Loaves & Fishes Friendship Trays provides healthy food boxes to individuals with a chronic illness and are identified as food insecure. Current partnerships with health care providers , such as hospitals and community clinics, are the main referral systems to help connect individuals to their services. Individuals receive seven days’ worth of nutritionally balanced and healthy non-perishable and perishable items. The organization serves Mecklenburg County.

Reinvestment Partners: Reinvestment Partners leverages technology to provide $40 per month to participants who then purchase fruits and vegetables of their choosing at major retailers. The program started in 2018 and has received $30M in public and private funding and enrollment partnerships with commercial insurers, health care systems, care management companies, and Federally Qualified Health Centers. As a result, the program has grown to serve more than 50,000 North Carolinians in all 100 counties.

SHARE Winston-Salem, Inc.: SHARE Winston Salem provides medically tailored food boxes in partnership with United Health Centers and the Wake Forest School of Medicine. The United Health Centers screens for eligible candidates (i.e., those who are food insecure, have diet-related diseases, higher-risk pregnancy, etc.) The organization serves Forsyth County.

TRACTOR Food & Farms: TRACTOR's local food subscription program, Farefield, provides produce shares to clients and customers through partnerships with local businesses, regional health care providers, clinics, hospitals, and health and relief agencies. Local farm products are aggregated to offer a wide selection of seasonal fruits, vegetables, dairy, grain, and meats. Customers may customize weekly shares by setting preferences and/or making direct product selections. The organization serves Yancey, Mitchell, Avery, Madison, Buncombe, and Henderson counties.

 

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About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a private, charitable foundation established as an independent entity by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina in 2000. Over the past two decades, the organization has worked with - and supported - nonprofit organizations, government entities, and community partnerships across the state, investing $190 million into North Carolina through nearly 1,300 grants. Within its focus areas of early childhood, healthy communities, healthy food, and oral health, the Foundation strives to address the key drivers of health, taking a flexible approach designed to meet identified needs in partnership with the community. Learn more at bcbsncfoundation.org