It is difficult to navigate life’s challenges on an empty stomach, but with a global pandemic squeezing the economy, hunger and food insecurity is a reality for a growing number of people.
By supporting food banks like the nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank in Nazareth, as well as organizations that distribute food, the business community is rising to the challenge.
For example, Capital BlueCross is a longtime supporter of Second Harvest, and supports other programs to provide food and basic needs to diverse populations in its 21-county service area.
Second Harvest serves 60,000 people each month and distributed nearly 10 million pounds of food last year through a network of some 200 nonprofit agencies in Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties.
In 2015, Anne Baum, vice president of Capital BlueCross’ Lehigh Valley operations, co-chaired a campaign that raised $3.3 million for a much larger food storage warehouse in Nazareth.
That 65,000 square-foot warehouse was nearly four times as large as the previous Second Harvest building in Allentown. It was the largest capital project in the history of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Second Harvest’s parent organization.
In the past few months, Capital BlueCross stepped up support for other food programs.
It supported Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley, and teamed up with Enola, Cumberland County-based Healthy You Café to deliver thousands of ready-to-eat meals and healthy snacks to senior home residents, EMTs, hospital workers, students, and others in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Capital BlueCross and Second Harvest are finalizing plans to roll out Capital BlueCross’ Community Care Program in 2021. That robust health outreach program provides health education and basic health screenings for underserved populations at food distribution sites. They delayed implementation this year due to COVID-19.
“The business community has risen to the challenge,” said Susan Hubley, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Capital BlueCross. “Food banks provide the most basic of needs for people, and this pandemic has only increased that need,” Hubley said.
Eighty miles west in Harrisburg, Capital BlueCross also supports the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. It sponsored a volunteer kitchen and pantry at Steelton-Highspire Elementary School called the Family Fresh Cupboard, which provides fresh food, dairy products and shelf-stable foods for families of children enrolled in the district.
All roughly 760 students at Steelton-Highspire School District are eligible for free breakfast and lunch said Dave Lloyd, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s youth program manager.
A smaller, sister program operating out of Elizabethtown High School helps dozens of struggling families as well.
“We know that students struggle mentally and physically if they are hungry,” Hubley said. “One in every five kids lives in a household that struggles to get food on the table. Capital BlueCross is committed to this program because it supports not only the student, but the entire family struggling with hunger.”