HCSC and Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute team up on new healthy food delivery service

The initiative – dubbed FoodQ – was initially launched in 25 zip codes in Chicago typically considered “food deserts,” geographic areas with a dearth of affordable and nutritious food options.

As healthcare moves away from models that focus on episodic care and toward maintaining overall health, healthcare organizations are thinking up innovative ways to address social determinants like housing, transportation and diet.

One recent partnership between Chicago, Illinois-based Health Care Service Corporation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute is trying provide access to fresh nutritious food through a food delivery program called FoodQ.

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Through FoodQ, eligible Chicago and Dallas residents can order or subscribe to meal delivery options made by Kitchfix and Front Porch Pantry, respectively. All consumers who live within the areas identified by FoodQ will be eligible for the program regardless of their insurance status.

The initiative was initially launched in 25 zip codes in Chicago typically considered “food deserts,” geographic areas with a dearth of affordable and nutritious food options. The program will also be rolled out across 15 zip codes in Dallas starting in April.

Food deserts are associated with higher rates of obesity, diabetes and higher healthcare costs due to the prevalence of chronic conditions and increased hospitalizations.

“We know a ZIP code is just as important as a genetic code in determining a person’s health – impacting medical needs and access to care,” BCBS Institute President Dr. Trent Haywood said in a statement.

“As a physician, I know I can easily write a prescription, but what I don’t know is how am I going to make sure patients have access to healthy meals they can afford and want to eat. With the alarming rates of obesity and diabetes in our country, we need a different approach to supporting healthy living, and this pilot program can help remove the barriers that keep people from accessing healthy, affordable and nutritious foods.”

Participants can purchase individual meals for $10 with an additional $6 delivery fee or buy a $10 monthly subscription, which includes free delivery and a buy-one-get-one option for every meal purchased.

“FoodQ removes the barriers of transportation and availability that affect people living in these areas,” Manika Turnbull, HCSC vice president and community health and economic impact officer, wrote in an email.

“The goal of the FoodQ service is to offer consumers easy access to affordable, healthy foods to improve their health outcomes, particularly for diet-related, chronic conditions.”

The FoodQ pilot will run for six months after which it will be evaluated and potentially expanded to other geographies or other options like meal kits.

HCSC’s support and funding of FoodQ comes through Affordability Cures, its $1 billion initiative to address the overall affordability of healthcare. As part of those efforts, the insurer also donated $1.2 million to nonprofit Feeding America last year to provide employment skills training and nutrition programs at food pantries across its markets.

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