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$250,000 grant fuels 'Food as Medicine' initiative

New program aims to bridge the gap between hunger and health in Riverside.

Feeding America Riverside | San Bernardino (FARSB) has announced the receipt of a $250,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Elevance Health Foundation. The grant will be used to initiate a 3-year program known as the 'Food as Medicine' initiative in the Inland Empire.

The collaboration between FARSB and local healthcare providers is aimed at screening patients for food insecurity during healthcare visits. If patients screen positive for food insecurity, healthcare partners will link them to food assistance resources, including on-site assistance at healthcare facilities, community-based food pantries, and meal programs.

The 'Food as Medicine' initiative, a Feeding America project funded by the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, seeks to connect approximately 9,000 individuals facing hunger in Riverside and San Bernardino counties to food distribution programs that offer access to healthy food options. The program's goal is to screen between 70,000 and 80,000 patients over a three-year period with the intention of enhancing food security and health outcomes.

Carolyn Solar, CEO of FARSB, commented on the project, saying, "Our paramount goal is to forge meaningful partnerships, facilitating the equitable distribution of resources to families in need, particularly those who may be hesitant to approach conventional food pantries for assistance. Through the 'Food is Medicine' initiative, families are being introduced to food assistance programs during their health care visits when they need it most."

Beth Andersen, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, expressed commitment to the initiative, stating, "This partnership will allow clinical staff to conduct universal food insecurity screenings and interventions, helping provide a deep understanding of the health-related needs of the populations we collectively serve.”

The 'Food as Medicine' program also incorporates data collection capabilities aimed at identifying learnings and best practices to foster positive health outcomes in participants. The issue of limited access to nutritious foods can have severe, long-term impacts on health and well-being, and can further complicate the management of existing chronic conditions for those struggling with hunger.

FARSB is one of 21 food banks to receive this funding from the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation. The program underscores an ongoing effort to bridge the gap between hunger and health within the Riverside and San Bernardino communities.