by David McNichols and Tim Kean
Lacking reliable access to sufficient, healthy food is a problem that cuts across all lines – gender, age, race and geography. In Indiana, 1 in 8 people struggle with food insecurity and, within the eight counties served by Second Harvest, nearly 65,000 people – about 15 percent – struggle with this issue every day.
Food insecurity can be more prevalent in rural areas compared to urban areas, which is ironic since rural and farm communities’ productivity provides low-cost wholesome food for consumers.
This situation should not happen in our neighborhoods and to our fellow Hoosiers. But, we also know that this issue is best addressed by working together.
Recently, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Second Harvest announced a collaboration that aims to see people in East Central Indiana free from hunger. Through a three-year commitment from Anthem, Second Harvest will be able to organize 92 Senior Safety Net Distributions and 108 Tailgate Distributions each year. Through these events alone, Second Harvest will be able to provide annually nearly 2.1 million pounds of food – translating to about 1,750,000 meals.
The Senior Safety Net initiative is designed to create an easy-to-access location for seniors to receive nutritious foods. This initiative is intended to have a grocery shopping experience where seniors have a choice in the food they receive. This program has been part of our focus since August of 2016. There are some additional benefits we hope to bring forward in 2020 with the new Anthem partnership. Health and wellness educational topics, along with the socialization of meeting together as community can add value to this important event.
Second Harvest’s Tailgate Program meets people where they live by taking food to a central location in each of the eight counties the food bank serves and local volunteers help load cars as they drive through. This initiative has been part of our focus for over 15 years and positively impacts thousands of families every month. The typical or average experience in each county looks like 300 cars of families or roughly 1,000 people that receive approximately 30,000 pounds of food in about 2 ½ hours. The emphasis for this program has been fresh produce as quantities and varieties vary from month to month.
Anthem has also been using healthy food in its whole-person approach to health care in helping its consumers. The health insurance provider recognizes that access to nutritious food is one of the many factors that plays a significant role in allowing individuals to lead healthier lives. Anthem provides nutritious delivered meals in many of its Medicare Advantage plans to members who recently returned home from a hospital stay, allowing these individuals to focus on their recovery and not worry about cooking. This healthy meal delivery benefit is part of Anthem’s wellness services that also include access to health-related transportation, an allowance for an assistive device, and alternative medicine.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Second Harvest are committed to improving the community we serve and the lives of Hoosiers. Imagine what life could be like for the hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers struggling with food insecurity if they no longer had to worry about reliable access to healthy food. How much better would life be for older adults if they didn’t have to worry about making the choice between healthy food and their medications? Addressing food insecurity will improve lives.
David McNichols is President of Anthem’s Medicare Central Region and is responsible for leading and managing the growth and overall performance of Medicare products – including Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage and Part D – in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 95-member agencies, programs and 35 schools provide food assistance and relationship building to more than 65,000 low-income people facing daily instability in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.