With hunger in America reaching its highest level in 14 years, Kaiser Permanente has quadrupled the amount it invests in programs to promote healthy eating during difficult economic times.
In 2009, Kaiser Permanente approved $2.1 million in grants and donations to nonprofit organizations that provide access to healthy foods at food banks and pantries, and that help boost participation in federal nutrition programs. The health care organization’s grants in this area are up from $430,000 in 2008 and $480,000 in 2007.
“When family budgets are tight, people often struggle to put healthy food on their tables,” said Raymond J. Baxter, PhD, senior vice president, Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy, Kaiser Permanente. “We are making investments in short- and long-term strategies to help our members and communities make it through this recession healthy.”
Kaiser Permanente is at the forefront of national efforts to ensure access to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. The organization is funding local programs from Hawaii to Washington, D.C., to ease the struggle that many Americans face as they work to put food on the table. Examples include:
- Maui Food Bank, which is using $50,000 for its “Fresh-4-All” program that provides fresh, locally grown food for the indigent, homeless and at-risk island population. People with diabetes will receive priority for the produce.
- Loaves and Fishes, Portland, Ore., which is using $60,000 to purchase fruits and vegetables for meals for seniors in Multnomah, Washington, and Clark counties in Oregon and Washington.
- California Association of Food Banks, which will use $200,000 to help its networks of food banks improve the nutritional quality of food distributed through food banks and pantries. For example, it will help connect food banks to local farmers, and it will help food banks develop nutritional guidelines for food they distribute.
- Manna Food Center of Gaithersburg, Md., is using $100,000 toward expanding its “Smart Snacks” program that provides a bag of nutritious, kid-friendly food to more than 1,050 elementary school children each week at 32 schools. In addition, $50,000 will fund a new program, “Fresh Food for Families,” which brings local farm produce to families in need.
Kaiser Permanente also is funding innovative programs designed to increase participation in government supported food programs, including school meal and food stamp programs, and to bring healthier food to participants in those programs. Examples include:
- California Food Policy Advocates, which will use $200,000 to provide better access to food for Californians who are experiencing economic difficulty, improve access to food stamps and increase participation in school breakfast and other meal programs.
- Food Research and Action Center, Washington, D.C., which will use $150,000 to work with anti-hunger advocates in Kaiser Permanente regions to remove barriers such as duplicative office visits, fingerprinting requirements and cumbersome forms that unnecessarily consume the time of overstretched caseworkers and prevent eligible people from receiving food stamp benefits. They also will assist school districts to help eligible families participate in school lunch and school breakfast programs.
- Coalition to End Hunger, of Denver, will use $80,000 to support state- and county-level changes that increase access to food stamps as well as school breakfast and lunch programs.
- The California Departments of Public Health and Social Services are using a $200,000 grant to design a Healthy Purchase Pilot Program, which would offer a rebate to food stamp recipients who increase their purchase and consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables.
“Lack of access to healthy foods among low-income populations — seniors, children, working adults struggling in the recession and others — poses a significant risk to our communities’’ health,” says James D. Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. “At a time when much philanthropic giving has been scaled back, it is great to see Kaiser Permanente expanding its commitment to these critical programs. This will make a real difference in a lot of places.”
The $2.1 million investment in Healthy Eating in Hard Times is one piece of Kaiser Permamente’s more than $1 billion annual commitment to improve the health of the communities it serves.
About Kaiser Permanente:
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: www.kp.org/newscenter.