BCBS companies expand access to healthy food across the U.S.

Published June 3, 2020

Putting food on the table. For the Health of America.

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are responding to the great need for nutritious food across the country—especially in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

A nutrition desert, or food desert, is any place with limited access to a supermarket or other source of nutritious food—namely fruits and vegetables. In the U.S. today, nearly 30 million Americans do not have easy access to healthy food. That's according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute's Community Health Management Hub (CHM Hub®), a data platform that identifies social and environmental determinants of health across the country.

In cities, this can look like a two-mile walk to the nearest grocery store. In rural areas, it could be a 20-mile drive. Many families living in such areas rely on schools to provide healthy meals for their children. So when the coronavirus caused schools across the U.S. to close, these families needed to find new ways, like food banks, to put healthy food on the table.

Seniors living in nutrition deserts, who often rely on caregivers, neighbors, friends or public transportation to get their groceries, were also disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. Even a grocery hand-off or short bus ride could be a risk to this vulnerable population.

To help meet growing needs and increase access to healthy food, BCBS companies are stepping in to serve families, children and seniors in their local communities with limited access to nutritious food:

Feeding out-of-school students and seniors in need

  • Anthem Blue Cross and its Foundation have donated $200,000 to Feeding America and the United Way—representing a portion of the nearly $4 million they have committed to COVID-19 relief. The contributions will help food banks meet growing demands and additional safety precautions; help agricultural workers—many undocumented and ineligible for federal relief—support their families; and ensure other vulnerable members of the community stay fed amid the economic shutdown.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS MI) serves both urban and rural nutrition deserts. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide school closures, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan increased support to its long-time community partners by providing $500,000 toward their efforts across Michigan: providing meals to vulnerable kids, protecting seniors and supporting other populations in need.
  • In a state largely covered by nutrition deserts, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBS NM) is providing food to families and seniors through Roadrunner Food Bank’s mobile food pantries at nine Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and two senior centers. This mobile distribution is replacing standard food pickup processes to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19. BCBS NM has also donated 2,000 reusable bags to APS for food distribution while students are out of school.
  • As part of its commitment to improve the health and well-being of all North Carolinians, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS NC) has provided $5 million to address food access and other critical community needs in the wake of the coronavirus. This money has helped distribute millions of meals across the state, deliver local farmers' produce to students, food-insecure communities and out-of-work restaurant and hospitality workers, and more.
  • Capital BlueCross (Capital BC), serving 21 counties in Pennsylvania, is increasing funding to food banks and other organizations, as well as providing meals to seniors, healthcare workers, and others in need. Grants have helped to feed nearly 4,800 home-bound seniors and provide food access throughout their community. The Healthy You Café, located in the Capital Blue health and wellness center, is also preparing and delivering meals across Capital BC's counties. Recipients include families without transportation, seniors, underserved students and women's shelter residents.
  • Ending childhood hunger is the goal of the Wyoming Hunger Initiative. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming has donated $100,000 to support this effort, making sure Wyoming families don’t go hungry during the unstable job market brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This donation supports Wyoming Hunger Initiative and its work with the Wyoming Department of Education and anti-hunger organizations statewide to solve food insecurity, which plays a significant role in overall health.

Learn how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Dakota is partnering with the state's only food bank to help feed its largely rural community.

Learn how BCBS companies across the country are addressing other food security needs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

For more information on food deserts across the U.S., view this map from the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.



The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.