CHICAGO — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is committed to working to help improve health outcomes by increasing access to nutritious food in communities across Illinois. According to Feeding America®, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, more than 1.2 million people in Illinois — or one out of eight residents — was facing hunger in 2020, and they project 10.9% of the state’s population will face food insecurity in 2021.
BCBSIL has joined forces with Feeding America to award more than $150,000 in funding to four organizations committed to combatting food insecurity across Illinois:
- Central Illinois Food Bank
- Eastern Illinois Food Bank
- Greater Chicago Food Depository
- Northern Illinois Food Bank
The Central Illinois Food Bank continues to see long lines and often runs out of food at their direct distributions. According to the Central Illinois Food Bank they have seen a 20% increase in pounds of food distributed to individuals and families since the start of the pandemic.
“We are so grateful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois for its dedication to ensure our neighbors have access to healthy, nutritious foods. Our partnership has provided fresh produce, protein, and dairy to those facing food insecurity, many for the first time, during a time of unprecedented need,” said Pam Malitoris, executive director, Central Illinois Food Bank. “This inspiring generosity reminds us of the responsibility we all share for supporting our communities.”
“We know that job loss, and other financial impacts from the pandemic put pressure on local food banks to increase food access in their communities,” said Steve Hamman, president, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “We are proud to support these organizations as they work to help put healthy food in homes and address the potential long-term health impacts of hunger including mental health challenges, delayed child development and increased risk of chronic disease.”
BCBSIL’s work with Feeding America is just one example of the company’s focus on increased food access and nutrition education. Other examples include:
- Providing grant support to community-based organizations focused on access to food through the COVID-19 Community Collaboration Fund. The latest round of funding provided 44 of the 175 organizations with $20,000 in funding focused on increasing access to food, often on a hyper-local, neighborhood level.
- Provided virtual and in-person programming and events to address food insecurity through our Blue Door Neighborhood Center locations in Chicago’s Pullman, Morgan Park and South Lawndale communities. These events included on-site food distribution events, monthly virtual “navigating local food resources” webinars, Nutrition Expos and virtual cooking classes where participants were provided with cooking ingredients.
- Partnering with the American Diabetes Association and Top Box Foods on a series of mobile food-drive/walk-up events serving an average of 200 families at each event with fresh produce, poultry and wellness kits.
- Hosting an April Food Day event on April 20, encouraging employees, community partners and the residents to drop off donations to four local food pantries in Joliet, Aurora, Springfield and Bolingbrook. Beyond distributing donations to Christ Pantry Joliet, 4Kid’s Sake Inc. Food Pantry and Enrichment Center, Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, and The Salvation Army of Springfield, these four organizations were also presented a $5,000 check from BCBSIL to help further their efforts.
- Presented Mattoon Community Food Center a $5,000 donation to support their efforts providing local food access.