We have all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” And in truth, what we have available to eat plays a critical role in individual health and the overall health of communities.
Despite a strong agricultural economy in North Carolina, we have nearly 350 food desert zones impacting 1.5 million residents. Food deserts make it difficult for community members to buy affordable and good-quality fresh food. These impacts contribute to the state ranking 31st nationwide in terms of overall health. When there’s a lack of healthy food options, people living in food deserts tend to have higher levels of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, our mission is to work to improve the health and well-being of our customers and communities. And sometimes that means bringing a little bit of creativity to the table. We’re excited to announce that we’re working with Fruits and Veggies, or FNV, to bring a quirky new campaign to the state.
FNV has taken a page out of the playbook of big brands to market and promote fruits and vegetables in a fun and engaging way. Its aim is to inspire people to eat more fruits and veggies. Less than half of millennials in the Raleigh-Durham area eat fruits and vegetables more than once a day, which is one of the reasons we collaborated with this unique campaign. Through the Partnership for a Healthier America, and with star power from more than 85 celebrity ambassadors – including North Carolina celebrities like Cam Newton, Indi Cowie and Stephen and Ayesha Curry – the goal is to increase statewide consumption of fruits and veggies through this one of-a-kind initiative.
Over 92 percent of N.C. residents do not eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Whether that’s due to access or awareness of healthy foods, many organizations are working together to solve this problem. From the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, organizations are focused on building healthier lifestyles across the state. Blue Cross N.C. also is investing in a healthier tomorrow through its work with the East Durham Children’s Initiative, serving lunches to families in need over the summer, and collaborating with the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association to offer practical solutions for feeding hungry families and promoting locally grown foods. We also recently invested in refrigeration and freezer equipment at four food banks that serve 82 counties, and partnered with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to build an urban teaching garden in Durham, the Geer Street Learning Garden.
I encourage everyone to join Blue Cross N.C. in standing up for fruits and veggies. Find a worthy community organization to support and get involved. Whether it’s dropping off canned fruits and vegetables at your local food bank or harvesting a community garden, there are many worthwhile causes to support. Working together, we can help each other make healthy choices make communities healthier for all.
Brad Wilson is president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.