It's hard to be healthy if you're hungry. And one of every five people in North Carolina struggles with food insecurity.1 We care deeply about creating healthier communities, so we're working hard to fight hunger across the state.
Retiring the Garden Means a Growing Contribution to Community
For five years, our on-site community garden has provided food for local hungry families. We've donated almost 1,000 pounds of crops to our partners at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to distribute to those in need of healthy, fresh food. But things are changing, and we couldn't be happier.
In the past, as part of the Nourishing North Carolina grant program, BCBSNC funded the garden and donated all produce to the Food Shuttle. Volunteers from BCBSNC helped to harvest the vegetables, which were then passed on to Urban Ministries of Durham to distribute to various programs and organizations that provide food for the hungry. It also provided education to students, who would then bring their experience home and share it with their families, spreading the message about available healthy, nutritious foods. Our garden served 135 day care students in 2015 alone. And the Food Shuttle ran gardens like ours all over town, so their impact was and is exponential.
But then a chance arose for them to bring their gardens together in one place and closer to the population they serve, to further boost their impact, and they jumped at it. So did we. Inter-faith Food Shuttle's move to Bull City Cool, a food hub for serving located in downtown Durham, meant BCBSNC could also grow our contribution and serve more of those in need in our backyard. Bull City Cool sits in "a former Gulf filling station built in 1928 [and] serves as a key connection for local nonprofits, small businesses and farmers, providing office space and refrigeration to preserve fresh produce."
Eliza Bordley, Inter-Faith's Durham food security coordinator, managed BCBSNC's community garden as part of her role. Now, as they pull their community gardens together at the food hub, she coordinates volunteers who are building and maintaining one large community garden in a lot across from Bull City Cool. Putting their efforts into one place helps Bordley and the Food Shuttle do more. In addition to the increased ability to provide fresh food, they're better able to offer education and rewarding experiences that will help foster healthy eating in the community.
Our gift will support Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in creating the Geer Street Learning Garden and new food storage facilities. They'll offer cooking classes for families and workshops on everything from beekeeping to building rain gardens. And of course they'll continue their outreach activities, such as the BackPack Buddies program for children.
Some children only eat well, or at all, when school is in session. Backpack Buddies provides kids with backpacks full of healthy meals and snacks to help sustain them over the weekend.
Also, with the land and resources available at this new site, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle projects that our investment will allow them to grow 300-500 pounds of food each year. By pooling our resources with the Food Shuttle, we'll almost double our impact in the community. And we can contribute with boots on the ground, too, as our employees and their families volunteer at Bull City Cool. Evening and weekend volunteer opportunities give our volunteers a chance to engage with other community members and the families who benefit from this food hub.
We want to participate on every level, making NC healthier and contributing to this amazing effort to make good, nutritious food available to everyone here at home.
More Than Statistics: Pounds of Food = Numbers of People Not Hungry
North Carolina ranks in the 10 worst states for children under 18 who lack food on a regular basis, according to the NC Association of Food Banks.One out of every six people in North Carolina struggles with reliable access to affordable, nutritious food – maybe not knowing when their next meal might be, or sacrificing the grocery trip to pay the utilities. Over 26% of our children suffer the same fate of "food insecurity" – that's more than 1 out of every 4 kids.
Yet 40% of food produced in this country never makes it to the table.1 This gap is unacceptable. People need fresh food, and nearly half is being thrown out.
Our local food banks are working on this issue. With fast distribution being a major issue for making sure nutritious fresh food is available to everyone, refrigerated trucks are key to getting the food where it's going while it's still good. Since it's our mission to promote the health and welfare of all North Carolinians, we partnered with four food banks across the state.
We provided support to purchase new refrigerated trucks and refrigeration/freezer equipment and general support to the Second Harvest Central & Eastern North Carolina Food Bank (CENC), Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina (Charlotte), and MANNA Food Bank in Asheville to bring more healthy produce, meats and eggs to the community.
The food banks will be able to get healthy and fresh meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables to their partner agencies faster, increasing the volume of healthy foods distributed and reducing waste. Ensuring North Carolina's hungry families have enough nutritious food to eat is central to making our state a better place to live for all of us.
BCBSNC's local food bank is CENC, with 34 counties in its service area. Barbara Morales Burke, our Vice President of Health Policy and Chief Compliance Officer, has served on the CENC board of directors for seven years. She gave us the latest statistics: "In fiscal year 2014/2015, a third of the total food distributed by weight was fresh produce – they distributed 57 million pounds of food (48 million meals) and that included 19 million pounds of fresh produce." She added, "Healthy food and fresh produce is a big priority."
The larger truck, funded by BCBSNC, allowed for extra capacity. CENC food bank wrote in their newsletter about the donation:
We are grateful for a shiny, new 26-foot box truck provided by BlueCross and BlueShield of NC. This new truck will provide us the opportunity to distribute 1,684 additional meals per truckload to thousands and provides additional access to pickup donated food from two retail grocery stores each day."
On an annualized basis, the expansion equates to an extra 800,000 extra pounds of food, which equals 674,000 meals in a year. The total gift impacted food assistance programs in 82 of our 100 counties. And employees will continue to volunteer their time with this organization, because the health of our community is a critical mission for us.
One box truck serving the Raleigh/Durham area picks up and delivers an average of:
It will travel an average of 45,000 miles each year.
Nourishing North Carolina (NNC) is a statewide community garden program making local, healthy food more accessible. NNC has established or enhanced community gardens in 95 of North Carolina's 100 counties.
Sort-A-Rama brings workers together to package meals for the hungry
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (CENC) has a mission to help local families who are hungry and living without regular access to nutritious food. We share that mission.
BCBSNC is a big supporter of the Food Banks, with executives on the board of directors and employees volunteering locally. One of our favorite activities with the CENC Food Bank is Sort-A-Rama. We were one of the supporting founders of Sort-A-Rama and continue to be invested in its success.
BCBSNC participates in Sort-A-Rama every May, along with companies like CISCO, Bank of America, IBM, Coca-Cola and Food Lion.
According to the CENC Food Bank, Sort-A-Rama kicks off the Food Bank's Stop Summer Hunger campaign. CENC and Second Harvest timed the events to provide meals to area children and families during June and July, a time when school cafeterias are closed and children who rely on the free and reduced meal program have less access to nutritious meals. With school meals not available, families turn to the Food Bank and its partner agencies for the extra food.
Sort-A-Rama is one of the largest corporate volunteer service events in the region. Employees from major corporations from around the Triangle and Triad, like BCBSNC, CISCO, Food Lion and BASF, come together and sort food into family portions so it's easy to both distribute and prepare. Meals are sent to local agencies across the state, which then distribute the meals to families living with food insecurity.
"We usually have a couple hundred employees that participate," said Barbara Morales Burke, VP of Health Policy and Chief Compliance Officer at BCBSNC. Morales Burke has been a member of the board of directors for CENC for seven years and represents the agency at the State Association of Food Banks. "CENC appreciates the support over the years from both BCBSNC and the Foundation very much."
Participation in Sort-A-Rama is a morale-building experience. Employees can feel pride in themselves and their workplace while reinforcing the company's commitment to the community.
UPDATE: 2016 projections estimate the number of meals packaged may reach 400,000, thanks to the addition of a Charlotte location!