LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Tonight, there are families in Arkansas who will sleep a little better. Tomorrow, their kids will think a little better in school, fueled by a healthy meal that was packed and provided to them through the efforts of neighbors – employees of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and approximately 4,000 other volunteers statewide – who care about these Arkansans’ health and wellbeing. In celebration of its 70th anniversary, Arkansas Blue Cross kicked off its “Fearless Food Fight” in March pledging to pack 700,000 meals in 2018 to address food insecurity in Arkansas. When the final gong was sounded at the end of November, the initiative far exceeded that goal; providing more than 1.1 million meals to food pantries throughout the state — enough to feed one-third of Arkansas’ almost 3 million residents. “Investing in the communities we serve — particularly in ways that directly support improving health — is part of our organization’s foundation and is woven into the very fabric of our company’s culture,” said Curtis Barnett, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross. “So, it was especially appropriate for us to make community service an integral part of our 70th anniversary celebration. What a privilege it has been to be in the communities of our members, our friends and neighbors, working elbow to elbow to fight food insecurity in our state.” Getting great healthcare is important to overall health – but many factors contribute to overall wellness, including where a person lives, the amount of education they have, social circles and economic stability (all social determinants). Safety, activity, food and many other social determinants affect health, too. Access to nutritious food is fundamental to good health. And it’s a serious issue in our state: 1 in 5 Arkansans struggle with hunger. Children, senior adults and rural residents struggle the most. Arkansas ranks first nationally in the category “very low food security,” at 8.1 percent. Households that fall into this United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) category have more severe problems, experiencing deeper hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis. Arkansas ranks second nationally in the number of people facing food insecurity. According to a recent report, 19.7 percent of Arkansans do not know where their next meal is coming from. Arkansas is ranked sixth nationally in senior hunger. An estimated 240,000 Arkansans age 60 and older are food insecure. “Not knowing where their next meal is coming from is too often the reality for hundreds of thousands of Arkansans,” said Kathy Webb, executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. “Providing nutritious meals is fundamental to keeping Arkansans healthy. Efforts such as the Arkansas Blue Cross Fearless Food Fight show how working together can make a difference in the lives of people in need.” Fearless Food Fight 2018 at a glance: § 29 Fearless Food Fight events hosted statewide § 34 counties served § 115 local food banks, pantries and shelters supported § 4,000+ employees and community volunteers participating § 1,091,472 total meals packed § Meals contained approximately 65,875 pounds of rice; 12,135 pounds of dehydrated cheese; 32,937 pounds of soy; 8,668 pounds of protein and 3,467 pounds of vegetables. Fearless Food Fight events were hosted by: USTA Arkansas, Camp Couchdale/FFA Arkansas, 4-H Arkansas, Simmons Bank, Mercy Health Systems/Fort Smith and City of Waldron, Hooten’s Arkansas Football – Conway Christian High School, Southside Batesville High School, Foreman High School, Parkers Chapel High School, Warren High School, Fouke High School, Smackover High School, Bauxite High School – Ouachita County/ Haymond Insurance, Oaklawn Jockey Club, Mena School District, United Way/Pine Bluff, First Christian Church of Harrison, Harding University, University of Arkansas Razorback Athletic Department/Student Athletes, Mountain Home FFA, World Class All-stars Cheery Gym, Mississippi County Health Systems and Agent Berry Live United Bowl/Texarkana. Arkansas Blue Cross worked closely with The Pack Shack of Rogers, Ark., to help facilitate the food fight events. The non-profit organization was established in 2013 to increase awareness about hunger, provide food, and encourage people to get involved with the local nonprofits serving their community. “It has been a great year working with Arkansas Blue Cross through the Fearless Food Fight,” said Bret Raymond, co-founder and chief executive officer of The Pack Shack. “With their vision and commitment to the citizens of Arkansas, more than 1 million meals will go a long way in helping people eat…and eat healthier…thanks to efforts of neighbors who care about each other and invested the time to express it in a wonderful way.” Arkansas Blue Cross turned 70 on December 3, 2018. Since its inception in 1948, seven decades ago, the company has offered reliable, affordable health insurance coverage to Arkansans and providing the peace of mind that comes with knowing members have access to healthcare when they need it most. Through the years Arkansas Blue Cross also has been a good corporate citizen, investing in the communities it serves statewide. “Arkansas Blue Cross already supports programs that address many of the social determinants of health,” said Barnett. “We will continue that support, but for the next five years, we will be working particularly closely with organizations in the state that are already doing great work focused on helping people have access to nutritious food. And we want to thank all of our fellow Arkansans who worked alongside us this year to make this goal a reality to ensure our most vulnerable citizens have access to healthy food. “Making sure food is available is the first step. Finding long-term solutions will define our next step.” Learn more about the Fearless Food Fight at: http://www.arkansasbluecross.com/ FearlessFoodFight/default.asp About Arkansas Blue Cross Founded in 1948, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is the largest health insurer in Arkansas. Arkansas Blue Cross and its affiliates have more than 2,900 employees. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is comprised of 36 independent, communitybased and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 106 million members – one in three Americans.