To answer those questions, I met with local farmers, neighbors, and leaders, listening to the barriers they face. We talked about the supply chain—every step that goes into getting food from farm to table. Rather than raising their meat and selling it locally, these farmers explained, they’ve had to sell their livestock to a buyer who acts as the middleman between the farmers and the larger food entities. The result is higher prices at the grocery store, which many people can’t afford to pay.
Understanding that the price of groceries starts at the production level and that farmers dedicate long hours to raising their livestock, we called in one of our partners, NC Choices, who are the experts in the connection between local agriculture and healthy communities.
Back in May, my team sat down with three Duplin County farmers, a county representative, and our partners at NC Choices for a discussion about getting healthier, fresher and more affordable food into the hands of North Carolinians. Together we came up with a plan to help farmers sell their goods locally, which puts more money in their pockets while offering food to families at a more affordable price.
Blue Cross NC is also investing in communities in other parts of our state to support food security. In Western North Carolina, we’re partnering with a local café to reduce waste and feed everyone regardless of means. And in the Piedmont, we’re supporting a mobile kitchen that brings fresh, healthy meals to food pantries, churches, schools and local organizations.
Our drivers of health team is also focusing in on food security at a time when more than 600,000 North Carolinians are struggling to put food on the table. They’re working with food banks across the state to increase enrollment in SNAP and other food and nutrition benefits so that folks can buy fresh produce for their families.
I know that the people of Small Town USA are innovative. My dad doesn’t have an engineering degree, but he can build any type of equipment, any kind of generator, and anything else he needs to get the job done. The same is true of so many local people who have had to adapt and innovate with the resources available to them. Connecting that spirit of innovation with the opportunities available through Blue Cross NC could transform the health of our state.