Consistent access to nutritious food is an essential part of maintaining good health, but for millions of people, having a daily meal may mean sacrificing other critical needs like medicine or transportation. This is detrimental to health and can lead to chronic conditions that may require ongoing healthcare. Elevance Health and the Elevance Health Foundation take a community-based approach to reducing food insecurity. In 2021, Foundation grants provided 5.5 million families with 30 million meals. The Food as Medicine program, a partnership with Feeding America, expanded in 2021 to reach about 100,000 people. Our grants go to specific communities where help is needed most, such as community college campuses and urban neighborhoods.
Improving Food Access in Indianapolis
Not every neighborhood has plentiful, affordable, nutritious food choices nearby; adjusting for these “food deserts” is part of our strategy to address the whole health of the communities and people we serve.
More than 20% of Indianapolis is considered a food desert with most local grocery stores having closed over the last 40 years. Elevance Health Foundation is helping to address food access in the area through a grant to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to support the Equitable Food Access in Indianapolis Neighborhoods initiative. This three-year, $45 million grant brings together residents, community leaders, experts, and civic organizations to develop achievable strategies for equitable food access. The program builds on a nationwide effort by the foundation to invest up to $30 million over the next three years to address food insecurity, including helping local residents operate backyard gardens that help supply the nutrient-dense produce that is scarce in their communities.
“There’s more to being healthy than doctors’ visits and medicine,” says Elevance Health Chief Health Officer Shantanu Agrawal, M.D. “As we continue to address the social drivers of health, improving access to nutritious food is one of our highest priorities.”
Expanding Food as Medicine in Kentucky
In Kentucky, one in five residents lacks reliable access to nutritious food, and the state has one of the highest food insecurity rates in the country for older adults. Thanks to a $1.5 million donation from Elevance Health in 2021, Kentucky’s Dare to Care and God’s Pantry food banks will increase food distribution and outreach over the next three years to address food insecurity in their local communities.
“Far too many people in Kentucky are hurting right now,” says Brian Riendeau, executive director at Dare to Care. “Our ongoing collaboration with Elevance Health and their financial support gives us the badly needed resources to help our community, especially given how tough this pandemic has been on many people.”