Expanding Access to Fresh Produce, One Food Bank at a Time

Each morning, men, women and children form a line outside the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (CFBSA) branch in Nogales, Arizona. For them, waiting patiently for the doors to open is worth it, because they know the food inside will help provide meals for the coming days.

Arizona has one of the highest overall food insecurity rates in the United States, particularly for children. The Nogales food bank is part of a network of branches supported by the Association of Arizona Food Banks (AAFB). Their work, made possible by charitable donations, helps to support struggling communities throughout the state by providing them with access to fresh food that might otherwise be wasted.

“Poverty is a terrible problem in this country and so are health issues associated with nutrition,” said Dana Yost, director of sourcing at CFBSA. “Our clients don’t get to shop in the produce aisles of grocery stores because it’s too expensive. In many cases, we’re the only source of fresh produce they have.”

When people don’t have access to fresh produce, they miss out on key nutrition and health benefits. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure, prevent cancer and reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, eye issues and digestive problems.

UnitedHealthcare recognized this need and granted $500,000 to AAFB to expand access to fresh produce for at least 350,000 people in Arizona. This allowed AAFB to purchase two refrigerated trucks that will help with food distribution.

“The best thing about working with UnitedHealthcare is that they recognize that food is medicine,” said Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of AAFB. Yost added, “We should all, as Americans, have the opportunity to have access to fresh food.”

This grant is part of UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to expand access to the basic resources that can affect a person’s health, such as food security, housing, transportation and social connection. Arizona is one of five states that UnitedHealthcare is focusing on for 2018.

“By helping to directly address food insecurity for thousands of Arizonan families, we are helping people live healthier lives right here in our neighborhoods and across the country,” said Joseph Gaudio, CEO of the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona.