Fighting Food Insecurity to Build a Brighter, Healthier Future

(BPT) - Access to nutritious foods is a key ingredient in overall health and well-being. Yet food security is the most commonly reported unmet social need in the United States.1 This need has grown into a crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the struggle in communities everywhere, raising the number of those experiencing food insecurity by an estimated 45 percent in 2020 since 2018.2

Each September, in recognition of Hunger Action Month, people across the country come together to shine a light on this issue to support those who face hunger and food insecurity. It is a time for individuals and corporations to stand together to fight hunger in the United States. This is especially critical today, as many families are experiencing food insecurity for the first time due to COVID-19. In fact, food banks estimate that 40 percent of their current visitors need assistance as a direct result of the pandemic.3 Due to the strong link between food security and physical health, these staggering statistics also mean an increase in chronic conditions and healthcare costs.4

Of the 54 million estimated to face food insecurity in 2020 – which includes 18 million children – the greatest impact is being felt by some of the most vulnerable populations.5,6 Black and Latino households have higher rates of food insecurity compared to the national average.7 Meanwhile, food-insecure young adults are more likely to have mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and children in food-insecure households are more likely to skip preventive medical care and rely on emergency rooms instead.8,9 Together, these facts clearly underline that food insecurity has broad downstream impacts on the healthcare system and our society as a whole.

This Hunger Action Month, and indeed throughout the year, Anthem, Inc., one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies, is reaffirming its company-wide commitment to reduce food insecurity across our nation.

The power of change

“We know that reducing food insecurity can positively impact mental, physical, and emotional health,” said Felicia Norwood, EVP and President, Government Business Division, Anthem. “This is why we’ve galvanized our organization to tackle the complex issue of food insecurity from multiple directions at once – in our communities, through our benefits, in partnership with our care providers, and with the support of our associates. We see the impact that consistent access to food has on health, and it’s clear that we must all work together to ensure no family has to worry about putting food on the table.”

Building on its 75-year legacy of improving lives and communities, Anthem is taking a multifaceted approach to combat food insecurity. This approach includes:

  • Mobilizing the community of 70,000+ Anthem associates to help drive meaningful change
  • Working alongside nonprofit organizations to take direct community action
  • Rewarding care providers for taking a whole-health approach that recognizes food insecurity
  • Structuring benefits to ensure food security is central to consumers’ whole health needs

Anthem’s national reach, deep relationships in local communities, and breadth of resources uniquely position the company to address issues like food security on a national scale – because the company focuses on health, not just healthcare. This is a long-term commitment, and currently, the Anthem Foundation has more than $16 million in grant programs at work to address food insecurity. In 2020 alone, Anthem associates have generated an additional $1 million to food insecurity partners through the company’s matching gifts program.

Every organization that touches health and healthcare has an important role to play to reduce chronic health issues, lower healthcare costs, and improve health access. A lack of nutritious food shouldn’t prevent anyone from living their best life. That’s why Anthem is working every day to promote better food access for better health.

To learn more about Anthem’s efforts to combat food insecurity, visit https://www.thinkanthem.com/FoodInsecurity.

References:

[1] McKinsey & Company: Insights from McKinsey’s Consumer Social Determinants of Health Survey (accessed July 2020):https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/insights-from-the-mckinsey-2019-consumer-social-determinants-of-health-survey

[2,5] Feeding America: The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity (accessed September 2020): https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-05/Brief_Local%20Impact_5.19.2020.pdf

[3] Feeding America: Facts about hunger in America

[4] United States Department of Agriculture: Food Insecurity, Chronic Disease, and Health Among Working-Age Adults (accessed July 2020): https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/84467/err-235.pdf

[6] United States Department of Agriculture: Food Insecurity in the U.S. (accessed July 2020): https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics/

[7] Northwestern Institute for Policy Research: How Much Has Food Insecurity Risen? Evidence from the Census Household Pulse Survey (accessed July 2020): https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/documents/reports/ipr-rapid-research-reports-pulse-hh-data-10-june-2020.pdf

[8] Journal of Adolescent Health: Food Insecurity is Associated with Poorer Mental Health and Sleep Outcomes in Young Adults (accessed July 2020): https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(19)30419-7/fulltext

[9] Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Food Insecurity and Child Health (accessed July 2020): https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/144/4/e20190397

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