Blue Cross, Blue Shield of North Carolina has reached out to help local farmers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
The onset of COVID-19 caused food insecurity in western North Carolina to increase by 60%, with 250,000 people lacking access to adequate nutrition. In a survey completed by 900 farmers in the region, 80% reported a decrease in sales, and 75% reported that if disruptions in sales persisted for several months, farm losses would result in bankruptcy or closure.
To help address these challenges, Blue Cross NC has invested $275,000 in the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. The project works to strengthen local farm economies by linking farmers to markets and supporters and by building healthy communities through connections to local food.
Through Blue Cross NC’s investment, the project has developed a response to support the local agriculture community during this pandemic, including:
- Farmers market support — With quick adoption of safe model operations, including prepackaging food, social distancing and setting up no-contact payments, the project was able to ensure 90% of farmers’ markets in its service area were able to continue serving their communities.
- Local Food Guide — The project is updating its online portal with more information that better connects communities to local farmers to make it easier for people to find out where to purchase food staples or order food online.
- Double SNAP — Shoppers who receive SNAP/EBT or Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers can double the value of each dollar spent at participating farmers’ markets. The impact of COVID-19 caused SNAP usage at farmers’ markets to triple, so the project has coordinated additional resources to keep pace with the new demand for this program.
To learn more about the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, visit asapconnections.org.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.