The fight against hunger

Published December 12, 2018

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 40 million Americans are food insecure. This means they are unable to acquire enough food to meet their needs because they have insufficient money or other resources. Of those 40 million, one-in-four are unlikely to qualify for most federal nutrition programs, leaving them limited to no options for food.

Arkansas ranks second in the country for the number of people facing food insecurity. With a population of about 3 million, nearly 500,000 residents struggle every day to buy enough food for themselves and their families to live a healthy life. 

As part of its 70th anniversary celebration, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield committed to making food insecurity its number one priority by packing 700,000 meals in 2018 – a goal the company has already surpassed. Through this Fearless Food FightSM campaign, the company is now working toward a new goal of 1.1 million meals by the end of the year. 

“Roughly one in six Arkansans do not know where their next meal will come from,” says Curtis Barnett, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross. “Several towns in Arkansas don’t have grocery stores, and while there are convenience stores, many people don’t have access to healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.”

In Waldron, Ark., nearly 15 percent of people are food insecure, yet 68 percent are ineligible to receive assistance from the government for food.

In summer of 2018, Arkansas Blue Cross gathered together employees of Mercy Health Systems and the City of Waldron and community volunteers to pack more than 30,000 meals for the Fearless Food Fight campaign. The dehydrated meals are similar to one skillet meals and contain soy, protein, vegetables, rice, cheese plus vitamins and minerals – meeting USDA nutrition requirements. These food packets helped stock area food banks and pantries.

Fearless Food Fight at Waldron First Baptist Church on July 26, 2018
Fearless Food Fight at Waldron First Baptist Church on July 26, 2018

Research shows that people who are food insecure are at greater risk of negative health outcomes, including obesity and chronic disease, which makes it critical to address this social determinant of health

“Food insecurity rose to the surface as an immediate need in our state and we recognize that good health starts with good nutrition,” Barnett says. “While our Fearless Food Fight initiative is a good start, we are working to develop longer-term, sustainable solutions to continue to make an impact long after the initiative has ended.”

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield 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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