How two BCBS companies keep food on the table amid COVID-19

Published May 1, 2020

Supporting local economies. For the Health of America.SM

As jobless claims surpass 26 million since the coronavirus was first declared at pandemic, COVID-19 has become much more than a national health crisis. It is also a food security crisis for millions of low-income, out-of-work or at-risk Americans.

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) companies across the country are stepping up to help feed those in need. Two in particular— Florida Blue   and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBS MA)—are finding creative ways to use their facilities and partnerships to support local farmers, food service workers and their communities.

Repurposing campus kitchens and staff

With most employees working from home, Florida Blue   's corporate campus in Jacksonville was empty. Without people to feed, the company's food service vendor was faced with laying off 40 employees.

Meanwhile, a large, local food bank, Feeding Northeast Florida, was flooded with perishable, institutional-size food donations from cancelled events and closed theme parks. But they also faced a shortage of donations from grocery stories as their shelves emptied.

To make use of these resources and respond to the growing need for food support during the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Blue    partnered with Feeding Northeast Florida to bring in the large donations to their corporate kitchen, as well as purchase produce from local farmers who no longer had restaurant buyers. The food service vendor's 40 employees developed menus and prepared fresh, healthy meals for seniors in the community.

"[The food service employees] were just thrilled with the fact that not only were they able to still be employed and do what it is that they do, but that they're able to pay it forward to other people who didn't have that same opportunity," says Damian Monticello, Sr. Manager of Corporate Hospitality at Florida Blue   .

Each day, the team is preparing nearly 3,000 meals, delivered to seniors and senior centers by the Feeding Northeast Florida team.

The team at BCBS MA is employing a similar solution to make use of their empty cafeteria and food service staff, who may otherwise be out of work. Each week, they are preparing over 5,000 meals for food insecure residents across Massachusetts, and delivering them to local organizations for distribution.

Delivering farm-fresh foods

Since the shelter-in-place orders took effect in Florida, farmers across the state began losing their major customers. Restaurants and other service industry organizations were no longer purchasing food in bulk—an adjustment to their own slowed or halted business. Even as the state lifts its stay-at-home order, businesses will not be running at pre-coronavirus capacities. 
To mobilize farmers' unused produce and help a growing number of people in need put food on their tables, Florida Blue   partnered with Angela TenBroeck, the winner of their food security challenge last year and the CEO of a sustainable farming company whose mission is to tackle food insecurity.

Together, they developed Florida Blue, Farmers and You, a project that buys leftover produce from local farmers and delivers it at heavily discounted prices to families and seniors in need. As a result, farmers get businesses, packing workers keep their jobs and those in need of food are able to contribute what they can to feed their families. 

Supporting local organizations

In addition to these boots-on-the-ground solutions, both BCBS companies are making significant contributions toward local organizations to feed their communities.

BCBS MA has invested over $2 million in coronavirus relief efforts, including:

  • Project Bread - Providing access to food for people who are hungry today while working to break the cycle of hunger through advocacy, education, and community action.
  • Lovin' Spoonfuls - Facilitating the rescue and distribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded. 
  • The Greater Boston Food Bank - Increasing food distribution to provide three meals a day to every person in need in Eastern Massachusetts as the largest hunger-relief organization in New England.

Florida Blue   also made an initial investment of $2 million to support coronavirus relief efforts in Florida. Many of these contributions are addressing food security for seniors and children.

Florida Blue   has also invested in a partnership between the Miami Marlins Foundation and Feeding South Florida, called the Home Plate Relief Fund. This weekly drive-through food distribution site provides approximately 200,000 meals each week to families in Miami-Dade County. 

Florida Blue   and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of 36 locally owned and operated, independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

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