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Food as Medicine Program: Delivering Greater Food Security and Access in North Minneapolis

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ROBBINSDALE, Minn. and EAGAN, Minn., July 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Food security and access to healthy foods are vital to personal and community health – and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) and North Memorial Health are working in North Minneapolis to develop creative solutions that support both. North Minneapolis has long faced food insecurity and access challenges that stem from redlining, decades of racially discriminative policies, underinvestment, segregation and other factors. Food insecurity and health inequities in North Minneapolis have been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and loss of neighborhood grocery stores.   

Pillsbury United Communities through North Market, Blue Cross and North Memorial Health came together to address this challenge through a new program to meet food and safety needs identified in the community. The newly piloted “food as medicine” program provides personalized weekly grocery packages to vulnerable Camden community members who have chronic health conditions and are at a higher risk for COVID-19. Packages are delivered by North Memorial Health community paramedics, who also assess participants’ wellness during the visits.

North Market – a program of Pillsbury United Communities that serves as a full-service grocery store, includes the North Memorial Health wellness resource center and serves as a community gathering place in North Minneapolis – partnered with Blue Cross and North Memorial Health to develop and fulfill the program. The partners share a commitment to identifying the unique needs and solutions of communities within North Minneapolis, where leaders and neighbors know how best to serve the most vulnerable.

“Working with the North Minneapolis neighborhood, North Memorial Health wants to ensure that its most vulnerable customers – those who are food insecure, live alone, are over the age of 50 with chronic health conditions and at greater risk for COVID-19 – can safely receive healthy foods to support their health,” said Jennifer Close, CEO of North Memorial Health Clinic. “With the partnership of North Market, we are already seeing some very positive health impacts from the food as medicine program. For example, during a recent delivery, one of our community paramedics was able to direct a participant to COVID-19 testing, as the individual shared having symptoms suggesting that they may have the virus.”

The 12-week program begins with care coordinators at North Memorial Health Clinic – Camden who know the health needs of their community members. For the first phase of the program, the care coordinators identified 10 participants who began receiving grocery deliveries the week of May 18. North Market creates the food packages, each of which are personalized to reflect individual preferences and align with the essential foods that support the needs of their chronic conditions. Special requests by participants and essential non-food groceries, like toiletries, are also included in the care packages. The program will expand to include a total of 30 participants around July 20.

“This pilot uniquely meets the needs of North Minneapolis residents and addresses a long, systemic issue of food insecurity. Food as medicine squarely addresses the social determinant of health related to quality food access which we know has significant downstream impacts,” said Adair Mosley, president and CEO, Pillsbury United Communities. “Individuals and families have shared with us their desire to eat healthy but are prohibited due to access and cost. This program squarely addresses the barrier, and if scaled, can lower healthcare costs and have positive health impacts.” 

Blue Cross and North Memorial Health are conducting ongoing evaluation of the program through weekly satisfaction surveys with participants and monthly health monitoring.

“Community-developed solutions like the food as medicine program support more personalized healthcare. Community members at risk for COVID-19 can practice vital social distancing and still have access to healthy foods. With healthcare providers coming to their doors, their individual health concerns can be monitored closely, which is fundamental to successfully managing chronic conditions,” said Dr. Mark Steffen, chief medical officer, Blue Cross.

About North Memorial Health

At North Memorial Health, we are on a mission to change healthcare. We’re delivering unmatched customer service and empowering our customers throughout the Twin Cities to achieve their best health. North Memorial Health provides access to high-quality, low-cost care throughout the Twin Cities through its medical transportation services and two hospitals – North Memorial Health Hospital and Maple Grove Hospital. North Memorial Health Clinics, which include primary care, specialty care and hospice, are part of a joint venture with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota that is transforming the healthcare experience for consumers. The North Memorial Health Wellness Resource Center – a partnership with North Market – offers a neighborhood place for greater well-being, including access to wellness coordinators, registered dieticians, community health workers and pharmacy liaisons as guides to healthier living.

Across the North Memorial Health system, 900+ doctors and 5,000+ team members are dedicated to delivering a more connected experience for our customers.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; North Memorial Health

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