Leading statewide effort against food deserts

Published January 15, 2019

Hunger – we all have felt it – and for the majority of us, it’s because we accidentally skipped a meal. But for one out of every eight people, it’s because they cannot afford to buy a meal. And when they can, chances are it’s not healthy. However, access to affordable food is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to food insecurity.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is the lack of access by all members of a family at all times to have enough food for an active, healthy life.

Food insecurity can lead to a number of health factors, including obesity – which data in 2016 reports that nearly 29 percent of adults in the state of Arizona were obese. In the fight against these alarming statistics, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBS Arizona) saw the immediate need and put a focus on a statewide initiative, Nourishing Arizona.

Launched in 2015, this campaign builds upon BCBS Arizona’s strong community partnerships and long standing commitment to health and wellness. Nourishing Arizona shines the spotlight on four areas:

  • Raising awareness by partnering with local organizations to share educational materials about the concern of food insecurity and food deserts across the state and why residents should care
  • Educating Arizonans on making better food choices by providing access to a three-month nutrition program complete with cooking demos and advice from nutritionists
  • Directing people to resources and access to help they may need, like local food banks or exercise programs for both children and adults.
  • Helping residents to maintain healthy habits and share learnings through ongoing local partnerships like the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council.

As part of this multipronged initiative, BCBS Arizona also supports local programs, including Farm Express – a partnership with the Discovery Triangle Development Corporation – to address some of the factors that lead to food insecurity. Farm Express is a mobile market that delivers affordable produce directly to communities with limited or no access to fresh and healthy food options. Since its launch in 2014, Farm Express has sold nearly 220,000 items and made more than 1,000 stops. In addition to providing access to healthy foods, the program gives out cookbooks, nutritional information and healthy eating guides.

Farm Express bus brings fresh fruits and vegetables to food deserts across the state of Arizona.


“One of the things that has made us successful is being adaptable and receptive to needs of the community. We take pride in our efforts to get to know community members so that we can give them access to the foods they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families,” said Elyse Guidas, executive director, Farm Express. “As long as we know that we are connecting with those in need, we can grow and work together and make a real lasting impact.”

Learn more about the Farm Express.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

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