Addressing food insecurity with local produce boxes

Food insecurity, defined as a household’s inability to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to a lack of resources, is an important social determinant of health.

In Mississippi, food insecurity remains a challenge, with 15.3% of households identified as food insecure.1 The state consistently ranks at the bottom of national health surveys. According to the 2022 America’s Health Rankings summary report, the state ranks 49th in overall health, 50th in food insecurity and 48th in fruit and vegetable consumption.2

One way to combat food insecurity is to distribute fresh food. Since 2012, the Farm to Fork program and UnitedHealthcare have provided members of Medicaid with vouchers for local farmers markets to make fresh food more accessible. In November and December of 2022, UnitedHealthcare launched a new method of distributing fresh food. We achieved this by working with Foot Print Farms, who supplied boxes of produce at sites across the state to people enrolled in Medicaid. The goal was to reach more state residents by making the boxes easily accessible.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Mississippi volunteers deliver food boxes in Leland, MS on Nov. 23, 2022.

A new way to distribute fresh food in Mississippi

Foot Print Farms, Mississippi’s largest urban farm, is led by Dr. Cindy Ayers Elliott, a former Wall Street investment banker who returned to Mississippi to take on the issue of food deserts and the lack of access to fresh food in the state. The 68-acre farm grows specialty crops and seasonal vegetables and also raises livestock. Its mission is to provide fresh produce and to teach young people every aspect of the growing process, including marketing.  

During the 2022 Farm to Fork initiative, we helped Foot Print Farms distribute 2,850 boxes of fresh vegetables at 23 distribution events in 11 communities throughout the state. Each box weighed roughly 15 pounds, which translates to about 21 tons of fresh food distributed.

Innovations to improve whole-person health

Food insecurity is a persistent barrier to whole-person health in Mississippi. As part of the communities we serve, UnitedHealthcare is committed to partnering with local organizations like Foot Print Farms to deploy solutions that support better health. 

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